The original Bon Air Hotel, once known for its grandeur and beauty, needs a revival.
The Bon Air, now a low-income apartment building, was one of five sites placed on Historic Augusta’s 2013 Endangered Properties List, along with two school buildings, a 19th century Broad Street building and a Laney-Walker neighborhood house.
Historic Augusta compiles the list to draw attention to buildings of historic significance that are in danger of being lost. This year’s list, announced Tuesday, targeted properties that are in danger of deteriorating because of neglect or misuse.
“They might not be right at the point of being demolished or neglected to the point that they are about to collapse,” said Erick Montgomery, the executive director of Historic Augusta. “Hopefully, we can get ahead of the game and work with the property owners to get these done.”
The architectural character of the Bon Air has been compromised by the owner, who removes historic features such as balconies and windows bit-by-bit, Montgomery said. The apartment building draws complaints from the surrounding neighborhood, he said.
“This is a stunning and iconic building in Augusta, particularly on The Hill. It represents our tourist history more than any other building,” Montgomery said. “We think it’s time Augusta reclaims this landmark for its highest and best use.”
Potential uses for the historic hotel include a conference center, upscale housing or a mixed-use residential and commercial property, he said.
A recently vacated school owned by the Richmond County Board of Education was also added to the list. Although restored in recent years, Lamar Elementary School closed this year with the opening of the new Lamar-Milledge Elementary School.
Montgomery said the school board has a track record of letting historic schools deteriorate before listing them for demolition. Four historic schools have been listed before.
Two buildings in the historic Laney-Walker neighborhood were also added to the list. The Cauley-Wheeler Building, the only remaining structure from the original campus of Haines Normal and Industrial Institute, could be razed to make room for new buildings on the Laney High School campus, Montgomery said.
Nearby, the circa-1926 Bohler House needs a face-lift, which Montgomery said is representative of many houses in Laney-Walker. Efforts by the city to restore the area have focused on building new houses rather than restoring old ones.
“I haven’t seen any preservation yet,” he said. “It’s all demolition by neglect or outright demolition.”
The last property on the list is the Erbelding Building on Broad Street. It is one of a few properties left that represent the 19th-century architecture that was once prominent in downtown Augusta, Montgomery said.