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Guest column in Rome News-Tribune: Dobbins Mining landscape deserves listing on NRHP

by MARK C. McDONALD, Guest Columnist
08.19.12 – 06:30 am

THE DOBBINS MINING landscape is an important historic industrial site in Georgia and deserves listing on the National Register of Historic Places. The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation stands behind the Keeper of the National Register’s recent decision regarding its eligibility for the list, which is a final determination and not reviewable.

The Dobbins Mining Landscape is a largely intact, nineteenth-century manganese mine that provides a great amount of information about the way manganese mining was conducted more than 100 years ago.

Archeological features present in the landscape today correspond directly to a map from the historic period, which shows an unusually large open cut, an incline shaft, an ore-processing facility, and a road bed which was laid by the mining company to transport processed ore from the mine to the main railroad line and ultimately to the steel mills.

The early mining industry played an important role in the development of Northwest Georgia in the late nineteenth century through World War I, when manganese was used for the steel in our soldiers’ helmets.

Manganese had many other uses and was mined at Dobbins until the mid-twentieth century.

INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT in Northwest Georgia is an extremely important theme in our state’s development. If you are looking for history in this part of the state, textile milling and mining are far more prevalent than the plantation economy, which was never dominant in this region.

Industrial heritage sites do not possess the same kind of physical beauty normally associated with historic sites; however, many people are fascinated with these sites and the important story they tell.

Aesthetic values are not what determine whether a site is historic or not; rather it is the site’s role in the telling of our nation’s history. Dobbins Mine is a site which represents the heritage of Bartow County in a profound way.

GDOT itself recognized the historical significance of Dobbins Mine in a July 2005 publication and recommended a northerly route which would avoid adverse impacts to Dobbins and other historic resources.

There are several other industrial sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places: Sloss Furnace in Birmingham and the Central of Georgia Railway Shops in Savannah are both National Historic Landmarks. Both have taken advantage of this listing and now contribute to their local economies as heritage tourism sites.

We are hopeful that the owners of the Dobbins Mining site will agree to open their property to special tours to people interested in historic preservation. The Georgia Trust has already begun discussions about arranging periodic access to the site for such tours.

ADDITIONALLY, the Georgia Trust is strongly in favor of connecting I-75 to the historic city of Rome. We care greatly about the future of Rome and believe that economic development is the key to protecting the historic resources in Rome and Floyd County.

The Georgia Trust has been quite active in preservation in Rome, where we have had several successful ventures through our Endangered Properties program. The Trust also held its 2010 Annual Meeting and Spring Ramble in Rome, where Trust members from all across our state got a chance to view the remarkable progress made in Rome’s historic downtown and neighborhoods. Several preservation projects in Rome have received Georgia Trust preservation awards, such as the Curry and West Buildings and the Double-Cola Bottling Company building.

The Trust is aware that the Greater Rome Chamber of Commerce is in favor of the GDOT route that will destroy Dobbins Mountain; however, that option appears to be closed.

We firmly believe there is an alternative route to connect U.S. 411 with I-75, which will protect historic and environmental resources and save valuable time and over $100 million because it does not require blasting through a rock mountain. We are further committed to working with GDOT, landowners, our State Historic Preservation Office and the residents of Bartow and Floyd counties to accomplish this objective.

Mark C. McDonald is president and CEO of the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation. He has more than 25 years of professional involvement in historic preservation. Founded in 1973, the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation is one of the country’s largest statewide, nonprofit preservation organizations. The Trust works for the preservation and revitalization of Georgia’s diverse historic resources and advocates their appreciation, protection and use.

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