Kimberly Campbell

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Interviewee: Kimberly Campbell
Interviewer: Joshua Whitfield
Date: October 19, 2016
Accession #: PHP 004
Length of Recording: 
Sound Recording

Kimberly Campbell is a Preservation and Education Coordinator for Historic Macon Foundation in Macon, Georgia. Campbell earned her BA in History from Mercer University in 2012 and her MA in Public History from University of South Carolina in 2014. She also earned a graduate certificate in Museum Management during her time at UofSC. As a graduate student, Campbell held internships or assistantships with Historic Columbia Foundation, the National Parks Service, and the City of Columbia Historic Preservation Division. Interview includes discussion of her experience as an undergraduate at Mercer University, a comparison between approaches to historic preservation in Macon and Columbia, and a number of her projects in Columbia, and the history of the sanatorium in Columbia. Campbell also reflected on the meaning of historic preservation.



Historic Columbia | Historic Macon Foundation | Historic Preservation | Internships | Museum Education | Museum Management | National Park Service



Joshua Whitfield: My name is Joshua Whitfield. The date is October 19th, 2016.  The time is 2:43. I’m in Macon Foundation in Macon, Georgia interviewing Kimberly Campbell. Why don’t we start with…well, obviously your name but also when you first entered the history profession?

Kimberly Campbell: My name is Kim Campbell. I entered the history profession…I guess somewhat formally actually as an research assistant in my undergrad career. My advisor, Dr. Sarah Gardener hired me to kind of do some scut work to help find articles, go through microfilm and things like that for a book she was working on at the time. That was kind of sort of not my first research experience but my first kind of research for hire real experience from there.

Then, of course I went to graduate school and worked as a teaching assistant — worked at Historic Columbia foundation — interned at a few places.  If you want to say true professional job, my first job was here at Historic Columbia Foundation — well, I take that back I was actually working as a national register subcontractor for Historic Columbia. I was technically a graduate student but that was hired separate from any assistantship or anything else — I was a contractor that John Sherrer hired.

JW: If you don’t mind for the record — when did you graduate from Mercer University?

KC: I graduated from Mercer in May 2012.

JW: Okay and you went to USC in what year?

KC: I started there in August two-thousand and twelve and then graduated in December two-thousand and fourteen.

JW: Okay. You were discussing some of your first working experiences as a graduate student. You mentioned I think Historic Columbia.  When was your first experience?

KC: Moving past undergrad, my first experience I was hired as an teaching assistant in my first year in graduate school — that would have been August two-thousand and twelve through April or May of two-thousand and thirteen — whenever that academic year ended. I was a TA for Bob Weyeneth’s American history 1865 to the present and then I worked with Carol.

JW: Harrison?

KC: Carol Harrison. Yeah. Teaching European history basically again from the Renaissance to the present that second semester. Then, my second year I was hired as a graduate assistant for historic preservation at Historic Columbia Foundation. My understanding of that — there was a lady who wanted to give a gift in honor of…I believe it was her husband and son who had passed away or some family members. She wanted to give the money to a public history program — I believe she was from North Carolina. She was connected to Bob Weyeneth and they set up this assistantship program and it funded two assistants…grad assistants at Historic Columbia — one in preservation in that first year and one in museum studies. Then Historic Columbia had an existing museum studies program for an assistant — there wound up being three of us there in our second year.

JW: Three of you at Historic Columbia (Unintelligible 3:40) ?

KC: Yesh. There were two museum assistants and then I was working as an HP assistant. I believe I was the first person who specifically devoted to preservation for about seven or eight years. Obviously, John Sherrers worked as director of cultural resources, involved a lot of that. There had been a director of preservation and some other grad assistants of preservation years in the past. One of them was Staci Richey who I think is still at city of Columbia. After them there was — funny enough with Historic Macon connection — Josh Rogers, the director prior to the one we have now in Historic Macon interviewed for the director of preservation job on the same trip that he interviewed to be executive director at Historic Macon and turned down the job at Historic Columbia and came to Macon and I do not believe that position was filled at that time.

After, I started…Shawn Stucker also started a few months later. Now there is a — of course, a robust preservation department there…as well.

JW: There and…

KC: Historic Columbia.

JW: Who did you worked with as graduate assistant? Was it John Sherrer or…

KC: I reported directly to John but I also did a bit of work with Robin [Waites] because of advocacy things. If something came up about — Bull St. was obviously a hot topic and it was not as hot as it has been the spring before I worked in Historic Columbia but there was still some advocacy going on that. We were allowed out in the campus to do some measure drawings at that time. She had me kind of coordinate a group of volunteers to go out with Lydia Brant and do those measurements. There would be times when Robin would say, “Hey, I need information on this building.” — and I would do that. For the most part, I worked with John doing property research on stuff or making site visits to  particular places — things like that.

JW: That’s Robin…

KC: Waites.

JW: It sounds like you came into this kind of position at an interesting time for Preservation Columbia — you’re talking about all of these projects that have been going on. What is your impression on what historic preservation was like at the city at that time? Especially from a graduate perspective.

KC: Columbia is a — it was a very — it was an interesting time and I use — I’m going to elaborate on that don’t worry cause I hate when people just say interesting. Columbia is sort of known as the place that tore down their cool buildings and put up parking garages. That is within a state — that state in particular — I would say it’s not sort of even a regional classification but within South Carolina and certainly within our graduate program that was kind of the way we viewed things. We would be looking at these pictures of old buildings and would say look at this great building and what’s there now, it’s a surface parking lot.

Kind of felt that on a number of fronts. When I came in — actually, I visited Carolina the spring before — Lydia Brandt spoke to a group of us who were considering the school and told us about this project she had in mind for this class she was going to do and it was about Bull St. and told us about — she had come across this mental hospital that was basically sitting in downtown and was going to be sold because it was essentially surplus property.  She wanted to work on the site and that immediately caught my interest from there. I can’t say that anything other than happenstance made that occur like that did and made it come to a head like it did while I was living in Columbia for about two and a half years.

It was certainly a wonderful opportunity to be able to learn about it and actively participate in advocacy efforts. During the summer between my first and second year, I worked with the planning department. I had their perspective in Columbia on what was going on in Bull St. and what should happen on the Bull St. campus. Then, of course I was in class and we were thinking about advocacy efforts for that place. There were other issues like the Palmetto Compress and other things. It did highlight the bad tendency preservationists have to be terribly reactive for the most part.

I’d say Bull St. less said what the Palmetto Compress is definitely the pro-typical oh my gosh, we have to chain ourselves to this building because someone is walking up with a bulldozer right now and it is something that preservationists are stereotyped with but it is often true. I would say in many cases that is a fair representation. I got to kind of see both sides of it — Bull St. was a little bit more proactive in that sense. There were a lot of both technical skills and kind of I guess less concrete things you could learn from experiencing those things on the ground — working with the advocacy organizations — working with the interested parties there in town.

JW: It sounds like you got to experience the challenges of being in the preservation field. Well, working in like a living city. I don’t know exactly what the phrase is to usually to describe that.

KC: Living in — a living city would be fair. Every place changes over time. It is rare to find an example like Macon or like Charleston — where for whatever reason the city has been in some sort of stasis and usually, that’s not like a good thing — and Macon’s example, there was not money to do anything. Macon had really, really depressed economy until the last decade or no one tore down buildings cause that cost money. Columbia is much more typical in a sense that business was happening — it’s a state capital. People felt the need to — that thought parking was important. They made parking and things like that.

Certainly, Columbia offered a lot of great opportunities too. At that time, learned about anything from the advocacy efforts to save buildings to how do you reuse buildings to — sometimes reuses don’t work. Sometimes, preservation is not always about saving something — sometimes, it’s the decision that it really needs to go.

JW: I definitely want to get back to your experiences in Macon versus Columbia and I also want to get back to this Bull St. project since that eventually became the focus of your thesis…correct?

KC: It did. Yes.

JW:  I wanted to ask what drew you professionally to the field of preservation as opposed to say a traditional career in history with a professorship, scholarship, all of that? And or maybe working in a museum field.

KC: Well, two things. Number one, I jokingly say that I’m academically ADD. I’ve always for as long as I can remember been interested in history and historical storytelling and telling people about the past but the idea of living with one topic — my experience with Sarah Gardner [sp?] realizing how long she was living with that one topic and writing about that one topic did not seem like it would fit as well with my personality. My interests tend to be broader — everything from medical history to racial history to institutional history of things like parks and governments. With those kind of broad interests, public history was certainly a better fit. It certainly would describe a lot of what I do now — in terms of range of historical topics. Preservation in particular drew me because I’ve always felt that tangible link.

Right now, we’re sitting in a room that is almost two hundred — well, not almost two hundred, a hundred and seventy, hundred and eighty years old. To think about for a moment people that passed there before you and what they did there — I think that that is the reason — that is what connects a lot of people to history more than me coming to you and telling you this house was built in 1840 and etcetera and so forth. It’s that certain feeling which you I feel get most strongly from the association with an actual place. It’s why people go to parks. They go to Gettysburg and they think Gettysburg happened here.

That really drew me to preservation as a way to draw more people in. I think it’s one of the most effective ways to get people interested in history — even if you are not actively interpreting a site. To create that connection and to create the sense of community that can create in the way that can enhance a person’s life to just have that connection to the past.

JW: Would you say you really value that sense of place that comes from a built environment like in Columbia…certain parts of Columbia and Macon?

KC: Yeah. Absolutely. I think it’s key for things like community revitalization, healthy communities, healthy neighbourhoods but also, I think on a more kind of human to human interaction level — living in a bubble if you will or — that is a less fulfilled life if you allow me to use some kind of (Unintelligible 12:47) terms than living in a environment that has some connection to your past or not even your specific past — our past as an community, as a nation, as a world to other human beings and thinking about it that way, I think that that add something that is — there is no way to quantify but which some people don’t like but it certainly adds an element that I feel makes life a little more fulfilling for people.

JW: I want to get into some of your…the classes that you took at USC. Do any of the graduate classes particularly stand out as something that was really influential on your perspective on preservation?

KC: Yeah. Probably, if I had to pick one class that was most influential in my thinking…actually, would be the England field school — which is kind of a funny answer since I work in America.

JW: No, it’s not.

KC: I went to England between my first and second year and preservation students didn’t follow this ark in their thinking about how preservation is in America. I noticed it in having interns here at Historic Macon.

JW: Now, who is the professor for that…the field school?

KC: That was Allison Marsh that year who led it. Preservation students tend to — you go through your first year and you learn the national register is not this band-aid for everything in preservation. It doesn’t prevent people from tearing things down — that was of course, highlighted in that year here in Columbia cause we’re worried about people tearing down all these buildings on the Bull St. campus. I go to England, where the system is kind of the opposite as opposed to being — having your strictest level of review being locally and instivising — preservation in your regional…in other words state or national government.

England is the opposite. It is a centralized system which requires you to preserve certain buildings. It is administered on a more kind of regional level for them but then luckily, they don’t really have kind of designer view as we think about it and stuff. I went over there and was quite frankly enamored with us — look at all the things that they can save. Especially we were there for a month. Especially the first two or three weeks, I just — I thought this is fabulous. They have saved so many things, that’s why it’s — there’s all this great stuff left over here. Towards the end of the trip we talked to more and more people in the conservation — as they call it — profession.

I kind of began to — well, I did realize that ultimately some of preservation comes down to the same things in both countries. In that, here we see through the tax credit system — a lot of regulation on the state level — the regional level.  In England, although the system is coming down from the central government — in terms of who’s determining what you can and can not do to a listed structure over there — your regional preservation officer is the one who determines what you can or can not do. I realized there’s a lot of similarity there. In particular, I remember going to the Bowes Museum over there and the Bowes Museum is a grey one-listed building and they needed more climate controlled storage space.

They needed to structurally reinforce the floor before they were going to do it because they needed rolling…storage. They were able to work out a way to do that with their regional conservation officer. But they were very — when they spoke to us and were showing us this storage space, they were really clear on the fact — they said, you know there are not many conservation officers who’ve allowed us to make these changes.  That this person understood the needs of this building as it essentially exists as a rehab and it’s this big kind of (Unintelligible 16:40) mansion thing. In working here — the longer I work with the tax credit system, the more I realize this is the same thing we deal with our state reviewers. Then realizing that occasionally we can not afford that million deal fix in that particular building, it needs to work another way and then allowing us to do that — that the building can be reused.

JW: Since we’re on the subject, how do you think the U.S. generally does in terms of preservation…historic preservation as opposed to these international kind of — your international experience at run?

KC: We’re definitely the oddballs. No one has a system like ours and when we describe it to people who don’t know it, they look at us like we’re nuts. When we talk about it’s locally run, they’re like your federal government doesn’t do anything and we’re like they do things but if you want tax credit they do things. If there’s federal money, there’s section 106 but no not really. Most people think that is incredibly strange. For most of the world, it is a centrally regulated system. I think that our system works for us. I jokingly tell my interns as an example to make them think it’s one of the examples of true federalism left in our country.

Your local government regulates you, your state government or regional, and your federal government only offers incentives to do things a particular way, which is always a nice one to make them think about how that works. In terms of a preservation ethos in the wider kind of population, it is certainly not as extensive here. Preservation of buildings — I can’t speak to — I’ve been to other countries in Europe but I can’t speak to them as much cause I did not do that kind of thinking in public history and preservation terms. In England, there was certainly a greater awareness of the history of structures and thinking about that and as much as people were frustrated with the listing system and think that it was too shrugged was often what they think over there — it’s too hard to deal with. They never question whether or not it was important to have things listed.

Whereas, here when you’re talking to the general public — sometimes you find that they want to know why something should be in the national register. Beyond that concern, I can’t paint my house the way I want to paint which is if their house is being considered one of the things they’re worried about. A lot of people don’t understand…why that’s necessary — why we should list that. In that sense, I think our system has not done itself any favors in making it more publicly accessible and explaining the necessity of it to kind of [omit] the general populous…I guess for a lack of better term.

JW: When you were doing your graduate work when you entered the field of preservation…I suppose — it sounds like you’re saying and correct me if I’m wrong that instilling this sort of preservation mindness — this ethos in the public is a responsibility of professionals in the field.  With that being an accurate statement or…

KC: Yeah, absolutely. Not just in preservation itself but I think it connects back to why I’m in preservation history. I think preservation is a method to impress the importance of history and the significance of that with people — it is that tangible reminder that many of us need to connect with that history.

JW: Let’s get back to some of the work you did in Columbia and your time there. What’s something that you feel most proud of as a graduate student?

KC: I am proud of my thesis but I think probably the thing that I’m most proud of was in Bob Weyeneth’s History, Memory, and Space…something like that…maybe it was Memory, History, and Space…I don’t know — we learned about researching places and the project that I wanted to do was — I’ve been walking through the horseshoe — I used to walk through there to get to Gambrell and I noticed there was all these memorials everywhere.  I ultimately pitched to him and eventually got him to okay was a survey of all the memorials on the horseshoe and what their meanings would be.

Part of that was this relatively, long technical report with a really long appendix that had a picture of every memorial on the horseshoe that we could find. I not surprisingly but very revealingly discovered that there were only three women mentioned on the horseshoe or three groups of women — only one woman by herself and no person of any other race beyond white mentioned in the memorials of the horseshoe. Of course, USC has this mission or maybe it’s the vision statement at the time which talks about being inclusive and accepting all people of all backgrounds, etcetera and so forth.

It’s the heart of the campus and you are promoting White male dominance on a place that’s was the think tank for rationaling slavery in particularly the later antebellum years. I found that particularly revealing about what the message they were sending whether they knew it or not and then had the opportunity probably about six months or so later to present that to the horseshoe committee which is a group of people. There is the school architect is on it, the president’s pastides wife is on that, Lydia Brandt is on it, a few other individuals who work on that committee — had the opportunity to present that to them and kind of point that fact out.

JW: How did they respond to that?

KC: Well, Lydia was one of the ones who wanted me to do it. The architect at the time I think he understood kind of where I was coming from. Mrs. Pastides was — she lives on the horseshoe and understandably not thrilled by that interpretation of it but at the same time I think it’s hard to argue with things like numbers — that’s where numbers really come in handy right. She was obviously not thrilled and had some questions about it but ultimately at the end of the day what was there was there. I did not just leave it as this is what’s there, I did point out some areas of things that could be acknowledged and one of them had long been a sore spot with them is the slave dwelling, which is behind the president’s house.  I pointed out that does not make amends for the rest of the horseshoe.

It is an opportunity to tell another history that is not being told at present in that space. Some other questions that I usually get are was that space — should it have more memorials? One of the things I looked at are who the buildings are all named for and they’re named by and large for white supremacists of the antebellum years…unsurprisingly with a couple of exceptions. One being Francis Lieber but that building wasn’t renamed until the sixties when they were trying to change their image.

Yeah, that was a very memorable experience for me and one I’m very proud of and one I think is still having some impact there. Bob and Lydia and I have discussed potentially bring that up again and it goes to the horseshoe app and which addresses some of those, which was going on before I was there but hoping to helping to address some of those issues and they used to call it my subversive horseshoe tour in which I would sometimes give to incoming or new students when they would start at USC. I would always hope that the new graduate students of our program, not the people in admissions tours would not talk to me.  They didn’t like me very much, they knew who I was.

JW: Why didn’t they like you?

KC: Because I asked funny questions about what history was talked about on the horseshoe. I believed they were told not to speak to me. I have no confirmation of that but they would not answer my calls anymore.


KC: I felt that that had an impact and there were times randomly when I had the opportunity students…undergraduate students would come up and they were on some kind of I guess sort of like a UNV 101 type course and would come across and I guess I looked like I knew where I was going and they say hey do you know anything about the history of the horseshoe? — I was able to give them promptu lectures but I think that’s important for a place like USC not only as a flagship school of the state but because of its key location in Columbia and the influence that has and the number of students whose lives that can touch by expanding that story. Hopefully, opening eyes of people who just see the horseshoe as it is and don’t kind of look at it critically.

JW: Don’t think about the influence.

KC: Or the impact or what it’s saying to people. To a young Woman or young African Americans coming in to that campus and because maybe they don’t know the history — maybe they don’t realize USC is the think tank of slavery but if they do and they go look at the horseshoe — you’re not gonna feel comfortable there anymore…you shouldn’t.

JW: Why is that?

KC: It’s not a place that’s welcoming you. It’s not offering you a place in its legacy as it currently stands today. Maybe you were allowed some else on the campus…so to speak but in that space it’s holding up here are these White males who fought this glorious civil war or war between the states and in all of some of the documentation there. That’s who we are gonna celebrate here. Maybe you can be here but this is not your space and that is — in the kind of advertising in the school — that’s the heart of campus.

You’re not welcome into the heart of campus, are you truly welcomed?

JW: I think this conversation is a great segway into your thesis. Would you like to talk about your thesis?

KC: I can…is there anything specific you like to…

JW: You mentioned that you were working on Bull St. — on a project related to Bull St. with Lydia Brant…I think. How did you come across your idea for the thesis?

KC: The project that actually…

JW: Also, sorry. Could you also explain your thesis as well. [Laughs]

KC: Yes. My thesis is called Building Sanity — the architecture — the curate of architecture of mental institutions. The basis — my premise is that there is a particular kind of structure called an Kirkbride asylum, which is designed to cure insanity. The way that it worked it was built in this kind of shallow v-shape and the most insane people — mostly violently insane, imagine people with delusions, etcetera and so forth were put in the furthest wings away. As you were “moving towards your cure”, as your life became “more normal” you were allowed to move towards the center. The center of that building lived the superintendent with his family, who was modeling for you what normal life should be like.

While you were figuratively or mentally moving through these various states there was actually a literal movement through space representing that for you. That’s the Kirkbride style building. The asylum in Columbia — the Babcock building represents the changing attitudes in that curative style of architecture. The Babcock building was initially — when they initially agreed to construct it, it was supposed to be “ a true Kirkbride style”. Most of those buildings were actually built in a relatively short time period — roughly five years. Being from South Carolina, funding was very stop and start for a number of reasons.

They were given an appropriation and they were not given an appropriation within the next year and there was the civil war. There is a lot of things that go on that prevents that building from being built in that time frame. Its design changed over the years and it shows the progression of them initially building a structure that was designed to be curated and moving towards the structure of custodial care which is what they presumed these people were just gonna be left here.

Initially, they rationalied that — when I say they, I mean the superintendents and the asylums doctors and those kind of staff — initially, they rationalied that by saying that people who were clinically retarded and people who what we would today associate with dementia would be given to them and they called that not truly insane in the same way that those were illness that could not be cured versus true insanity being something to them like hysteria or some form of schizophrenia, all though they didn’t recognize it as such and that those diseases could be cured.

The Babcock building varies from that. To go back to I guess how I got into that — when I started USC I was in a class with Lydia that was actually not about the Babcock building at all. Of course, it literally overlooks you the whole time you’re on the site but we were working on other buildings on the campus. The Babcock building was considered so structurally unsound and unsafe that we could not approach — there was a fence all a way around, you couldn’t get near it. We were working on sets of other buildings and me and my group were assigned to do what we accidentally named Doom St. initially. It’s a street of subsidiary structures behind Babcock building. One of them just actually just had a recent grand opening of the bakery. We were looking at the icehouse, the bakery, and the laundry right behind there. Studying the history and the architecture of those very utilitarian structures. Within that project, I was looking at kind of the twentieth century history of the campus and seeing how it became — the goal was to make it a self-sustaining place.

That’s really why I studied that particular semester with that and I was very interested in the way the superintendent’s language was like — well, we don’t want to have to deal with the community — was the just of it.  We don’t want to have to buy ice from the community and we don’t want any of you to take deliveries of bread from the community. We don’t want to have to send our laundry away, we want to keep it inhouse. I mean his argument wasn’t — there was an economic argument to it — it will save us money to do this — the patients can help with this if they’re well enough.

There was also a explicit argument that they did not want interaction with the community because they were worried about what it would do to the patients in the campus. They did not want the community there. It’s literally a city within a city. From that concept I became interested in where did that attitude come from — why are you so defensive — what makes you think this way. It kind of backtracked and did some research on that building itself — the Babcock building and found that very interesting and its history well documented since it was this asylum was owned publicly by the state.  That meant that I could go to the state archives and look into it.

There were annual reports over the year with very explicit rationaliations on why there doing what they’re doing and just became interested in seeing how — because they started in the twentieth century I wanted to know how they got there because when we started studying this we read this book by Karla Yoney, which is about the only book that really exists on the architecture on mental institutions. She was talking about curative architecture. My question I started with is how we get from this idea hey asylums are great to what I was reading about what was happening in the 1920s from that first project — we don’t want anyone to see what we were doing cause they’ll bother us — they’ll keep us from doing our work properly.

The Babcock building became kind of the central focus for a way for me to look at how that attitude changed because their attitudes changed about whether or not architecture was curative whether or not mental illness could be curative. During that period of the Babcock building’s construction you can see not the oldest ideas of mental illness but kind of if you will middle idea of mental illness as something like yes, it’s an illness but like  many others can be cured to the idea we have more today of mental illness goes into remission we think of it more as a…almost like cancer and the idea that most people aren’t cured but they can get better. As opposed to what they thought in the earlier 19th century was you could be rid of it like a cold and it wouldn’t bother you again.

JW: Would you say that the architecture continues to influence thought on the site — on what happens at the site of activities of bull street? Or is that just a stretch on my part?

KC: In like people’s behavior today or…

JW: Oh, I don’t know. I was just assuming that since there’s such a — the architecture has blatantly so much meaning I was just wondering what your thoughts were on that…

KC: I don’t know how many people know we certainly try to get that out there. We did a presentation at the end of that first class.  My thesis has been published, granted it was  South Carolina Historical Quarterly, you know how many people have read that whether or not it was developers I don’t know. We strive to let people know the significance of that architecture. I think that is — a lot of those — the reason we call Doom St. Doom St. cause we felt like it was going to be torn down.

They’re ugly buildings. Most of them by a large. They are these structures that were built to not be seen by people for things. That’s why we named it Doom St. The fact that some of those have been saved that I think speaks highly to an awareness that these structures tell a story whether or not they are especially aesthetically pleasing or not. I know the baseball park was built near the location of a historic baseball field but I don’t know exactly how close, I haven’t actually been to it.

JW: Were you involved in some of the — I think they did some rain participation for Bull St. recently — I’m not quite sure.

KC: I was involved in a museum exhibit we did at McKissick but nothing more recently than that unless someone found my thesis somewhere and referenced it.

JW: I do know your thesis has a great reputation with it. Everyone talks about it a lot.

KC: Thank you.

JW: Now, I wanted to ask — when you graduated in 20…

KC: Fourteen.

JW: Fourteen. What was that like going into the workforce and going out of a graduate program?

KC: I would say that my experience was not at all typical. I was — like I mentioned earlier working as a — I was in my fifth semester to finish my — I have a museum management certificate as well. I was finishing that certificate over that fifth semester and did not have funding. In years before me, Bob Weyeneth and I had talked about the fact that sometimes fifth semester funding was found for students who were willing to do the work for particular projects but that was no longer the case at that point. I was working as a — for Historic Columbia doing a national register nomination. I stumbled across a job listing and  it’s probably October-ish of that year and I was really only in one course.

I was enrolled for the hours for the internship I had done the prior summer and taking museum administration with (Unintelligible 36:55) at the time. Then, of course working part-time as well. I found this job listing for Historic Mankin. It had really quick turnaround time on the application. Essentially, they wanted a cover letter, references, and a resume but still they wanted it turned around. Look, the job posting was only opened for like a week and a half.

JW: What was the job posting for?

KC: Preservation education coordinator. I looked at the job description and a lot of it was — of course it’s non-profit — organizing volunteers. I’m in charge of doing certain lecture series and doing that — doing education programs. Occasionally, doing exhibits where specifically mentioned at that time. Then a large part of my job is doing tax-credit applications for rehabilitations. I knew about tax-credits. I never really done anything with them in Columbia but I had written a restoration plan before. Basically, a scope of work saying this is the condition of the flooring in this particular house and this is what should be done to bring it to restored status. I decided to go ahead and apply for the job. I thought why not — I went to Mercer — I have family in this area and my parents still live in Hopkinsville which is about an hour south from here.

I thought why not and go ahead and apply. I did a phone interview with my now boss, Ethel and he said, “Hey, would it be possible for you to do an in-person interview?” I was actually going to be in Macon in a couple weeks or so anyways and I was like, “Yeah, I can do one. I’ll be in town that weekend but I have to be back in Columbia on Monday.” We did a Sunday night interview with me and Ethel and one of our board members and then he called me the following Wednesday and offered me the job here. I literally stepped out of (Unintelligible 38:50) class to take this phone call. I had obviously spoken to her beforehand about I might get a full time job and John Sherrer, who hired me at Historic Columbia and went into that project knowing that if I got full-time position I was gonna probably take it. Then I would do everything I could to hand off that project to the next kind of part-time person.

I was looking for full-time work cause I was gonna graduate in December. I spoke to Ethel and of course, wound up accepting that offer. I was — for about one month I was both working here and finishing up (Unintelligible 39:30) class.

JW: You were working in Historic…with Historic Macon?

KC: I moved here. Yeah. I came and shadowed my predecessor in this position for one week in the middle of November and then I believed the next week was Thanksgiving and I was like moving myself. Then remotely, Lana was very gracious and allowed me to not attend her last class sessions and allowed me to complete my work while I was not there. I did go back to Columbia — I already defended my thesis — I had done that in October beforehand because I had been done with it and that was kind of key cause I was not doing that. I was just finishing up this course. I came back to present my portfolio in December. I was kind of doing those two things.

I can remember late one night being at Kinko’s fedexing my portfolio — so, it would be there on time.

JW: Kinko’s in Macon or Columbia?

KC: Here in Macon. I was already living here.

JW: You already had one foot in either city at this point.

KC: Yeah. I mean I was still going back and forth to Columbia for a little bit and working here. From all of my friends and everyone else, that is absolutely not typical in terms of public history work but I think it was just a happy confluence of the board here really liked me because of the Macon connections and the person before me only been here for — she only stayed here about ten months, she was the first person on the job and I think they were looking for something that would give them a little more permanence and family in someway to do that and have a connection with the city. I think that our mission is particularly a good fit for the way I see myself fitting into the preservation world and that must’ve come across.

JW: What is Historic Macon’s mission?

KC: We are revitalizing our community through preserving architecture in sharing history. My role in that is both — I mentioned tax credits a lot — people can hire Historic Macon as a consultant to write their tax credit applications for them. Also, to help advise them and that involves looking at a building and understanding why it’s significant and what are the character defining features of that building and the literal like architectural terms like they would describe what things are and what kind of condition in and recommend — yeah, that should probably stay or no that is probably okay to tear out.

I’m the primary point of contact for that work. I do that — I’m actively involved in incentivising preservation and introducing new people to preservation and since homeowners can use tax-credits in Georgia as well as getting to continue to do the education work, creating tour programs and getting people excited and interested in our local history and that kind of stuff.

JW: Now, earlier you said that there was a difference between the buildings that’s going on let’s say in Columbia, which is a capital city and a big college town versus a city like Macon which doesn’t necessarily have as many of the resources. Would you like to comment on that. How that maybe is different for here versus in Columbia.

KC: Yeah. Until you can really kind of mark it at two-thousand and seven here in Macon. Macon was — there is no reason not to invest in Macon — no one wanted to come to Macon. Pretty much we went to Mercer and then people left. There’s this huge brain drain, lots of White flight neighbourhoods all around, no one really wants to invest in this town.  In two-thousand and seven, there was a senior capsule project in Mercer which became the college hill commission, then received funding from the night foundation, which became the college hill alliance.

The night foundation which of course, is the big newspaper foundation money selected Macon as one of their challenge cities. Detroit is another and that means a lot of their grant funds they dedicate to projects here. They do downtown challenge grants and anyone can apply to do projects and things like that. That really changed things in Macon in terms of like the development. As opposed to a city like Columbia where development has been relatively continuous. Now, that development has not always been within a historic urban core, which I think is what before we began talking for the interview you were referring to. There was though a development happening in Columbia even through the recession to some extent. Macon didn’t have a lot of that. Occasionally some things on the fringes but by a large, there was nothing happening near the downtown area at all in Macon. Which that led to a situation where we have an incredible amount of historic building stock cause again if there’s no — nothing to go up or you gonna tear something down, why pay to tear it down.

People just didn’t as opposed to a place like Columbia where we felt like we needed the parking so that people could walk to main street — the streets on the edge of main street have all these parking lots. Here, no one was going downtown. There was no need to make a parking lot. Here being Macon.

JW: It sounds like you have this opportunity. You have so much of a well preserved built environment — more or less and now that money is coming into downtown — it seems like Historic Macon is really involved with helping preserve that kind of sense of place and also, the resources (Unintelligible 44:45 -47).

KC: Absolutely. We are not the only ones involved. There are other non-profits locally — New Town Macon is very involved in downtown development. One of the things they do is help connect people with buildings and with resources to do that. Say you want a shop, they help you find a building for the shop.

JW: Is that the one that Josh works at right now?

KC: Yes. Josh Rogers went from being executive director here to executive director at New Town. Our work — to give you an example — Macon has led the state of Georgia, the city of Macon has led the state of Georgia in historic tax-credit applications for the last four state fiscal years here in Georgia.

JW: Wow.

KC: Of those applications there are other people who consult in town but the vast majority of tax-credit applications come through us to do that. We are — I use this as an example frequently in the National Trust for Historic Preservation literature. The conference was in Savannah in 2014 and actually right before I started here. I didn’t go. I was trying to school and transition to a new job at that point but they joked, people who went were joking with me last year at the conference when they hear you’re from Historic Macon, it’s little bit like being a rockstar.

They were like last year was the Historic Macon show down there in Savannah talking about all the projects that y’all did. Josh Rogers was honored at that conference. There was a lot of talk of our tax-credit consulting was kind of put on the national stage on one of the first times and then after that I was asked to speak at the main street conference was in Atlanta the following March. They wanted to learn more about that. People are very interested in our process in doing that and not just the volume that we can do , which obviously has a lot to do with the environment we find ourselves in. Then again, that building stock but the way were able to kind of professionalized that beyond what you see with private consultants, which you might find in other places.

JW: Were those tax-credits always in Macon for like several years or are they fairly recent?

KC: The tax-credits have been available in Georgia — the Georgia program was established in the 1990s initially. They’ve been available. Georgia is lucky in that residential properties are eligible for tax-credits. Most states — a lot of states — 40 plus maybe…39 have a state tax credit program to match the federal program but a lot of them — for instance, South Carolina has the same requirement that the property be income producing in order to qualify. Homeowners in South Carolina even if they’re in a historic district can not take tax-credits unless that…maybe it’s an old residence — it’s not an office but for the most part homeowners can’t use them.

In Georgia, homeowners can use it as people began to sort of move back to downtown here — that led to probably the first wave of tax-credit applications. People choosing to move to College St. and to Alirington place here and to Orange St….and because they can use those tax-credits…word kind of began to get out about them locally and as people became interested in downtown buildings again — they saw an opportunity there to do those. The other thing Georgia has a property tax freeze program. If you buy essentially (Unintelligibly 48:10) elect building in downtown for say fifty-thousand dollars and you put close to a million into it — your property tax value is frozen like it’s worth fifty-thousand dollars for eight and a half years.

JW: It almost sounds like the Bailey Bill that they have up in Columbia…right?

KC: That I think that’s local though. It’s only…

JW: (Unintelligible 48:30-33).

KC: This is a state law. It’s reviewed in the same application process as the credits. The architectural reviewers at SHPO [State Historic Presrvation Office] still do that and then it’s administered by your county tax assessor. For them it’s relatively simple because when we get an approved application, they don’t have to do any of the architectural review at the county level. We send them the approval from the state — the both preliminary and final approvals from the state and they just lock in those values.

JW: What about the municipal government. I know that the county and the city recently consolidated. How has that affected preservation in Macon?

KC: We are lucky to have some very supportive leaders in preservation…if you’re interested in doing that but we are not a CLG and one of the reasons for that is that we don’t — we have a very dated preservation ordinance. Interestingly enough we have a fairly old ordinance. It dates from 1973 here in Macon. That means it does not carry the characteristics of many preservation ordinances that came about in the 1980s for most people, which is kind of the CLG standard. Our ordinance, we do have what we call Designer Review Board, which correlates in Columbia would be Design Development Review Commission.

They do not have the power to issue a certificate of appropriateness. The certificate of appropriateness is that — before you can get a building permit if you’re working in a historic district, you need a certificate of appropriateness or COA, which basically says this group of landscape architects, architects, developers, lawyers, etcetera thinks that your project meets the historic guidelines, which then allows you to get your permit.  We do require COA’s in Macon to get building permits when you’re within the historic district. The DRB — the Designer Review Board does not have the power to issue them. They are an advisory board to the planning and zoning commission. In other words, if I want to change on my historic house, for instance, I want to replace windows or something like that — I go to DRB and they can say we disagree, you should not replace your historic windows with vinyl windows or you should not replace your siding with vinyl siding or something like that but planning and zoning can overrule that here in Macon.

They can for whatever reason decide that they don’t care and now, that does not necessarily happen often but it is enough that it does not allows us to have a CLG status for that. We did recently — the Designer Review Board was for a long time kind of a joke here in Macon. It did not have a forum — it supposed to have five members, it only had three members. They were kind of arbitrary in some of their decisions. They didn’t really reference guidelines. They didn’t really listen to the trained staff members who were giving them staff reports for things. We actually recently wrote a grant to do a training day and kind of have some initiative to get — there’s a new board in place — full board of five individuals who are qualified — interior designers, engineers, architects, lawyers, things like that on the board now to do a little bit better job reviewing things and get them trained with what they’re supposed to do and that kind of stuff.

Which is to say we got to a good place from being in a bad place. They wanted to abolish all design reviews a little over a year ago in Macon. There was a big outcry from Historic Neighbourhood Associations, us, other interested parties who said no true good historic city, no city that depends on heritage tourism or needs that can live without a design review board. Then we got to a much better place from that.

JW: Speaking about the relationship between the community and historic preservation organizations and the municipal government…have you noticed…is the community changing at all because of the new influx of money into the downtown district?

KC: Yeah. Downtown was largely vacant before…the downtown kind of the true downtown area.  There’s a huge influx of residents — two groups I would say are most interested — one are young professionals. Young professionals who work in both Milliedgeville and Warner Robins, and Grey, which used to live in Macon — in addition to people who work in Macon. Also, there’s been some recent interest from say baby boomers or other empty nesters who are kind of looking to downsize. Moving into downtown loft apartments.  We have downtown condo project at one point as well for that.  That has certainly changed. Our target neighbourhood, which is Bells Hill, next to downtown is a very mixed neighbourhood in terms of socio-economic level and race for that.

Gentrification is obviously something we think about in historic preservation and there is certainly neighbourhoods where its happened to make it in the past. Whether there were larger houses that were rehab and sold. At this point, property values in Macon bib are not going to rise in such a rate that would force anyone out of there house to do that. Regardless of what we do to the house next door. They are just not simply rising that fast. We never approach anybody to buy their house if that makes sense. If you live in your house in Bells Hill, we’re never going to come to you and say, “Hey, we’re working next door. Can we buy your house and fix it?” We purchase vacant properties. Now, sometimes people particularly in the last couple of years, older people who are looking to move out of the neighbourhood know we’re working there and will come to us and say, “I want my house looked after after I move out, will you buy it and do it?”

We sometimes require properties that way. It’s definitely led to — I don’t know if that’s was the case when you were at Mercer but when I was there we were told not to cross the tracks (Unintelligible 54:40), Bells Hill is the neighbourhood right there. It’s a very different feel now in the sense of there’s lots of young families have moved into that area.

JW: Is that the neighbourhood that’s southeast of Mercer or northeast of Mercer?

KC: This is the one on the…let’s see…it would be south because it’s the one not across the interstate.

JW: Yeah. Thats changed a lot since I was there.

KC: It’s very much a kind of — Macon is younger in large parts. We still have a lot of old time residents but in particular downtown Bells Hill…in town there tend to be a lot of younger residents.

JW: Thinking overall through your entire career so far…what are your thoughts on the public history program at USC? Do you feel like it prepared you for this kind of work? Do you feel like it might of missed out on something? Or wasn’t provided with enough resources for something?

KC: Sure. I did feel as prepared as anyone can to deal with historic tax-credit applications when they start but I will say that had a lot to do with personal initiative. You can certainly go through the program at USC and not come out prepared but I think that in large part that’s on you. There were opportunities. I was offered opportunities on how to do measure drawings and technical architecture writing and they were not necessarily required but there were things that I chose to do and in doing that led to opportunities to work for something else that which led to getting a job for doing that. Again, you don’t have to, you can get away with not doing that kind of stuff.

One thing that I was very appreciative of and the longer that I have this job the more I’m appreciative of it was my theoretical backing in preservation. In a couple of Bob’s couple classes we discussed the history of preservation in the U.S. The way that the national register works. The history of those acts — what was going on at those times when those things happened. The general theory behind our system and I feel that I understand that very well. I feel that that is incredibly important in what I do and it’s something that when we have interns — grad interns come in, one of things that we teach them about is tax-credits and that work. You can’t read a building in tax-credits terms for the secretary of interior’s standards without understanding how the national register influences that and how it’s currently interpreted for that. That is something that the other programs that I looked at before I went to school — the Georgia masters of historic preservation and the College of Charleston/Clemson joint program do not do to the extent that we do. I think a large — I’ve done some really interesting national register work around here. I’m working on getting a move building listed and it’s gonna go through at this point.

JW: Like a building that has been moved?

KC: Physically moved like twelve miles from a rural setting to a suburban setting. Then general tax-credit work and those are things that I think had I not been to USC maybe there are other programs…certainly not regionally though not within the Southeast that would have prepared me that well to make those arguments. That move building that I’m referring to — I mean I start to work on that when I got here. December of 2014 that project began and I began making arguments on why it should be listed and that was only possible through the kind of those courses and those discussions with Bob and classmates. Really as much you might hate it at the time — thinking though the theory of things — makes what I do today so much easier.

JW: I was under the impression that a lot of times move buildings are just qualified for nominations.

KC: That’s correct.

JW: That sounds very tricky. I guess it’s architectural distinctiveness. Right?

KC: It’s an outstanding significance, which is partially based on the architecture of that structure but more based on the fact it’s — the man’s name was James Hyde Porter and he was disgustingly rich but he gave a lot of his money to educational institutions. The institution — it’s on Wesleyan College campus now because he gave so much to Wesleyan. We’re talking the equivalent today of millions and millions of dollars to both Wesleyan and Mercer..but he — Wesleyan got itself in some serious debt before the great depression in order to build their campuses that stands today and he helped buy them out of debt. There are a lot of other things that he did. The architecture of the building is unique but its connection to this — after his wife dies, he moves exclusively to this house.

That’s when he’s giving — he gave the money to build (Unintelligible 59:50) and porter dorm on Mercer’s campus — he built it. Essentially, like he gave the money for the entire structure and the plans.

JW: That’s a pretty big building.

KC: He gave more to Wesleyan. Yeah, he was — his connection to local — and I feel it should be state because of Wesleyan’s influence on Women’s education but minimum local educational history and his philanthropic giving along with the distinctiveness — he actually had a house he lived on College St. that he bought. But this house he designed after a little almost — it looks like a miniature shato — it has a tower.

JW: What was his profession again?

KC: He was — well, he inherited a lot of his money but he was vice president of Bibb Manufacture Company — the textile mammoth here in Macon.

JW: He wasn’t a professional architect?

KC: He was not. He actually hired Elliott Dunwoody, the elder elder — not alive anymore. Who designed a lot of houses in town as well. They were designing his house in 1927 after Mr. and Mrs. Porter got back from a trip from Normandy. When they were motoring around Normandy according to the old Macon telegraphs.

JW: Oh wow.

KC: They decided if they ever found land, they would build themselves a “Norman peasant cottage” by no means a “Norman peasant cottage”. It is a gorgeous structure and they built it out in kind of South Bibb county. He got into rose gardening…in experimental rose gardening. The site itself had a great deal of significance, which is one of things we had to overcome in listing it cause it’s no longer there — it’s on Tucker Road on Wesleyan’s campus essentially. Obviously, it would have a even more significance were it in that original locale but a church now owns that property, that had built structures very close to this house. They were not looking after this house and had a lot of deferred maintenance. Then, the other structures that were a part of the farm and the barn, the experimental growing and things like that were gone.

Ultimately, it was a question of is this house…should this house still stand…because in its current location it’s not going to. Or should it be moved and with his impact on local education, it was seen…reviewed as we’re the enlisting. That’s called…that’s constantly called the outstanding significance. It’s…like things that are less than fifty years old they can be listed in the national register if they have what’s considered outstanding significance. His significance to local education and local philanthropy is considered outstandingly significant.

Which supersedes the fact that the structure has been moved and that move has not received its own sort of significance and its own rights since it only happened that I guess in twenty-thirteen.

JW: You got that one on the register?

KC: It’s on there now. It’s depended upon its final rehabilitation. It’s why it works. It’s actually being…it was in bad shape like I mentioned they moved it which of course doesn’t really help in terms of shape. Wesleyan College is in the process of rehabilitating it now and finishing it up. To get something listed in the national register why you’re doing tax credits — the list…the tax credits are dependent upon the listing and the listing is dependent upon the final rehabilitation. It’s kind of a twisty, turny, all mixed up together process plus the building was moved.

When they get done working on it. At this point, all the historical questions have been answered. If the rehab plans, they do what they said they’re gonna do in the rehab plans which is nice working with the college cause you know they’re going to. Then it will be listed. We would anticipate that in the next year-ish. Depending them getting done with the…the exterior is done if you were to drive by it today but the inside is not done at this point.

JW: I’m gonna ask a question and you can answer this any way you want.

KC: Okay.

JW: Considering your experience with historic preservation and public history in general…both from the legal perspective and also the more humanistic side of public history and preservation. What are your thoughts on the future of the profession…and possibly what is your vision for historic preservation in a town like Macon?

KC: In Macon, we’re lucky in that more people than in most places…when I say understand preservation they may not know the ends and outs and the legal and the jargon and things like that but they understand historic buildings in a sense of place — historic buildings create. Not everybody does but a lot of people do. I guess in the future I would like to see more people recognize what that is and when I say that I mean people are naturally tend to be drawn to places like Charleston and Savannah as tourist destinations. What is it they’re looking at? Well, they’re there because of this sense of place created in large part by the environment they’re in — that is historic.

People don’t tend to recognize that. To return to what I said about England — I like to see people in our country begin to see that and to acknowledge that and to realize that matters and the impact I would like that to have on a large scale is…I mean one tangible thing would be a greater emphasis on crafts. The tax credits are in place because historic preservation,rehabilitation is more expensive than new construction but it doesn’t have to be. Inherently it is recycling. Theoretically, it should be cheaper in some ways and the reason there…there are many reasons that are not…and one of them is a lack of plasters and true brick masons and real carpenters anymore.

The tax credits are made to make up that gap but in the future I’d like to see places like the college of the building arts. Other places adopt that model and realize that we can use…we do need people skilled in crafts to be able to assist with keeping historic buildings up. Before they get that bad. Before they need rehab…to kind of see that change in our construction economy. To do that…I think…our current system is dependent on bills…right? We always hear about the federal system. The federal credits is threatened.

Our tax tow — federally is like this thousand page behemoth of a document that is constantly changing. We’ll never know if we’ll be able to keep the federal tax credits. From a legal perspective at minimum those have to remain. If not…if we don’t even need to think bigger. If there’s something…does the tax credit need to be larger…do we need to think beyond tax credits to programs like…is there some corollary for a property tax freeze on a federal level.

Is there something else that can happen to create…well, create a desire for people to do those. I’m not naive. I know initially people get into historic preservation cause they want to make money. They see opportunity…a lot of people do not everybody. I’m talking about developers here, not really public historians. We’re probably the odd balls in that sense. Developers get into it because they see an opportunity to make money either through taking the tax credits themselves or through a process called syndication, where they sell them. I have seen first hand developers who got in…who began rehabbing historic houses for apartments because you can make money because you can use the tax credits cause it was a good business model. He has become a person who was a huge advocate of preservation here locally and has also taken on a building, which is a total money black hole.

The reason he has not given up on that…it’s the old Capricorn Office Building. The guy who owns it now…I mean he’s gonna lose money on it — no matter what he does. I don’t care how long he owns it or rents that thing…it will never return…a decent return on investment…for him but he doesn’t care…at this point because the history of Capricorn…the preservation of that building or whatever it represents has…is important enough to him that he’s willing to do that…now. Which is something that — he said to me before. He said, “Ten years ago, he never would have done that.”

I might’ve bought the land but I would’ve tore it down. Wouldn’t have kept that building and now he says, “Now, I know it’s important. I think it needs to be there.” If you will tax credits are a gateway drug into preservation for a lot of people who you worked with in these buildings long enough and I think they began to speak to people to have meaning to people beyond the dollars and cents when they open themselves up to that. I think…unfortunately the way people think about preservation now or they think about the construction business they’re not willing to get into it without the incentives for that. We can help ourselves if we can create even more incentives for people to get more people in — to make it a better business deal at this end of the bargain.

Because the more people that are in those buildings, the more people that eventually appreciate them. Not only does that have a ripple effect — the people that live in historic loft buildings and the people that have businesses in historic loft buildings and the people who now visit downtown because there are new restaurants and new businesses there. I think that helps spread it but we are not set up currently to lose our kind of legal backing…for it.

JW: Beyond the dollars and cents…why is historic preservation important?

KC: I absolutely think that it makes life better today for people. I think that if you lived…in a sort of homogenized bubble, Jetson type world…that you would lose something. It’s not a…tangible you lose years off your life or you’re less healthy but you lose a connection with kind of where we’ve come from. Even if you have no idea who your family is and you’re totally disconnected from all that — you still have a connection with the rest of the human race. Preservation…again gives us that connection. We can walk through these places where someone else has been. We don’t…I mean I’m in this building everyday and I certainly don’t think about the fact that was a baby named (Unintelligible 70:37) born here…every single day. If you pause for a moment and you do think about it, it gives you that kind of…I am honored enough to walk in the place where someone else lived out their life.

Or where someone else had the largest furniture store in Macon. Or the first self-service grocery store was located in the middle of Georgia…and think about that. I think that certainly when you think about it…it makes you appreciate where you’re at today more. I think even if you…you just live in a historic house and you never stop to think, — who was there before you or anything else. That environment is more fulfilling than one that is kind of…util..not even utilitarian but blank…if you will. It’s not to say that all new construction is bad but there is something to be said…just like the influence of art on life and art on the way you think and culture. Architecture is a key part of that.

Even when it’s not high style when it’s a little shotgun house. That speaks to people on a level and I think…a new house may not in the same way.

JW: Thank you so much for spending time with me on that…I think that was a fantastic interview.

KC: No. Yeah. Good. I’m glad I was able to help.

JW: Absolutely.

Interview Ends [72:02]