Mary Ray School benefits from being on Trust’s list
by W. Winston Skinner
The Raymond community's Mary Ray Memorial School, listed on the Places in Peril list in 2009, has been restored and is now open for receptions and meetings.
The school was built in the Raymond community between Sharpsburg in Newnan in 1908. By 1950 the school closed and the building became the Raymond Community Center. The structure was used for education, public meetings, worship, community service and entertainment.
By 2008, the building suffered from rotting sills, sagging beams and a failing foundation. A community workday at that time attracted attention and volunteers.
The Georgia Trust awarded a $10,000 matching grant to the Mary Ray school to complete stabilization work. The restoration group raised money by selling Sunday dinners, publishing a cookbook and holding a Christmas bazaar.
Other structures outside Coweta have had historical connections to the county. The Eleanor Roosevelt School, a school for African-American children named for first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, was on the 2007 list. The school, built with money from the Rosenwald Fund, was built in 1937.
The 2008 list included the Meriwether County Jail in Greenville. Built in 1896, the massive brick structure features an unusual modified Italianate villa style with asymmetrical towers and Romanesque arches. Its three-story hanging tower provides a reminder of an earlier form of capital punishment.
The jail played a role in the John Wallace story, made famous by 'Murder in Coweta County' by Newnan native Margaret Anne Barnes. William Turner - who was killed by Wallace - was at the jail in Greenville and was released shortly before he was killed.
Herndon Plaza in Atlanta was on the list in 2010. For more than 50 years, Herndon Plaza was the headquarters of the Atlanta Life Insurance Company, which was founded by Alonzo Herndon, a former slave and Atlanta's first African-American millionaire.
Prior to becoming wealthy, Herndon lived in Senoia.
The plaza consists of two adjoining buildings - constructed in 1892 and 1918. The structures were rehabilitated twice, and an annex was added before Atlanta Life built a new building in 1980.
Other sites that have been placed on the list have included: Stilesboro Academy in Bartow County, which received a $25,000 gift in 2013 to restore the exterior; Chattahoochee Park Pavilion in Gainesville, which was restored in 2013; Fort Daniel in Buford, which was purchased by Gwinnett County and leased to the Fort Daniel Foundation, who is developing an educational outreach program; the Spencer House in Columbus, which received a $10,000 grant from the Historic Columbus Foundation and community support to finish restoring the exterior; and the Hill House at Andalusia in Milledgeville, which received a Preservation Award for Excellence in Restoration from the Trust in 2013.
Founded in 1973, the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation is one of the country's largest statewide, non-profit preservation organizations.
The non-profit which maintains the school in Raymond continues to seek donations and members. Contributions may be sent to Mary Ray Memorial Schoolhouse, 771-R Shedden Ave, Newnan, GA 30265.