Historic Building Condemned for Safety of Homeless

Original First Baptist Church condemned.

Augusta, GA – The city closed the doors to a downtown building connected to a church nearly 200 years old.

802 Greene Street is the birthplace of the Southern Baptist Convention.  It has now been condemned due to the poor condition.

The later it gets, the colder it becomes.  And some of city’s homeless relied on this building to keep warm.  Now, that’s no longer the case.

Sometimes they want to catch a nap during the day or sleep at night. But the historic building at 8th & Greene Street is no longer a welcome center for the homeless of Augusta.

“They may break into the place and try to generate some means to stay warm.  That leads to fires and fatalities this time of year,” said L.E. Lariscy, the city building inspector who condemned the century old worship facility in Downtown Augusta.

He added, “A lot of the plaster, some of it is falling loose and it’s unstable.  It would be extremely dangerous for someone to be in there.  They could be struck with falling plaster.  Not to mention that there is probably a substantial amount of mold.”

Lariscy said mildew and a lack of heating facilities also makes the building now occupied by Southern Bible Institute unsafe.

“We’re going to require them to come up with a stabilization plan,” he told us.

While the city tracks down the owners to come up with improving the building, News Channel 6 paid a visit to the Georgia Room at the public library on Telfair Street.  Staff there helped us research when the site was occupied by First Baptist Church.  We found out John D. Rockefeller visited the church in the past.  In 1967, during the weeklong sesquicentennial celebration, Rev. Billy Graham held consecration services at the building.

Historic Augusta’s Erick Montgomery put the site on the endangered properties list last year.

“We’ve been watching the building for a long time,” Montgomery said.

We found out the old church building was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972 during our time in the Georgia Room.

“Often National Register buildings are particularly large and ornate and need extra attention,” he said.

It’s obvious the old church is closed, if you can’t tell from the locked doors or the bright yellow condemned sign.  But, you can tell someone is still utilizing the place because a bag filled with covers is sitting on the front steps.

“We just encourage people to guide the homeless population of Augusta to shelters where they can get adequate heat, bedding and hygiene facilities,” Lariscy said.

This was certainly a building of its time, with the stained glass windows from Tiffany & Co.  Current First Baptist Church Pastor Greg DeLoach told us most of those windows have been moved to the Walton Way location.

Pastor DeLoach joined the voices of the larger community in the beauty of the building.  He said, “Nevertheless, due to age and time and limits it is no longer functional.  It is sad, but a reality.  No building was built to be permanent.  It hasn’t been in the church’s possession since the 1970s.”

Montgomery said there are a lot of Baptist people in the CSRA so he’s hopeful it can be saved.

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