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Heritage Preservation students win national award for report on DeKalb County

Tuesday, March 29, 2011 – Ann Claycombe

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In the years after World War II, DeKalb County, Georgia was one of the fastest-growing counties in the country. Whole neighborhoods of brick ranch houses sprang up to accommodate the new residents.

Last spring, a team of Heritage Preservation students from Georgia State University spent the semester cataloging the historical and architectural context of that growth. Now, they have won a national architectural award for their work.

Their achievement is particularly impressive because the Paul E. Buchanan Award, given annually by the Vernacular Architecture Forum, is not specifically for students. The GSU team beat out architectural firms, nonprofits and museums, and local and state government agencies for the honor.

Their report, “Single-Family Residential Development in DeKalb County 1945-1970,” won because of its comprehensiveness, its usefulness, and its focus on the recent past, wrote Janet Ore, associate professor at Colorado State University and one of the forum’s board of directors.

“Not only did [your work] address the criteria of the award,” Ore wrote, “but it had the added benefit of training the next generation of preservationists.”

In the report, the students used a number of different approaches: GIS mapping, archival research, site visits, and interviews of long-time residents. The students considered the effect of white flight and the baby boom, and the construction of I-20 and I-85 in the area. They also studied the role of Scott Candler, Sr., also known as “Mr. DeKalb,” who was instrumental in extending water and other public utilities into the county.

The students who worked on the report were: Kimberly Burton, Susan Conger, Rebecca Crawford, Elisa Graff, Paul Graham, Debye Harvey, Nathan Jordan, Courtney Lankford, Molly Leatherman, Elizabeth Morris, Chris Mroczka, Maysyly Naolu, Zack Ray, Luis Rodriguez, Anthony Souther, David Westbrook, and Caitlin Zygmont.

Courtney Lankford will attend the annual Vernacular Architectural Forum conference from May 31-June 5 in Falmouth, Jamaica, to accept the award on behalf of the team.

DeKalb resident Tom Bearden in front of his new house in 1952.