Georgia's historic buildings include a wide variety of houses, stores and offices, factories and mills, outbuildings on farms and plantations, and community landmarks.
The Historic Preservation Division (HPD) estimates that approximately 250,000 historic buildings exist in Georgia today. About one quarter of them are located in the state's larger urban areas, about one quarter are in smaller cities and towns, another quarter are in the state's mid-20th century suburbs, and a quarter are dispersed across rural areas.
Just five percent of Georgia's historic buildings date from the antebellum period (pre-1861). Fewer than three percent date from the Reconstruction period (1865-1877). About one-third of the state's historic buildings date from the New South era (1877-1919) with its prosperous cotton agricultural and industrial economy. Another third date from the period between World Wars I and II (1917-1945), with the greatest number dating from the 1920s and fewer from the Great Depression years. The remainder of Georgia's historic buildings, approximately 25 percent, date from World War II to the 1960s -- but this number is expected to increase as more mid 20th century buildings are identified through ongoing field surveys.
Houses are the most prevalent type of historic building in Georgia. They make up approximately 80% of all existing historic buildings. Houses range from large, high-style mansions to small, plain vernacular dwellings. The oldest well-documented house in Georgia continues to be the Rock House in McDuffie County, dating from 1786, although Wild Heron Plantation outside Savannah may predate it by three decades. The newest historic houses in Georgia are mid 20th century Ranch and Split-Level Houses like those in the Collier Heights National Register historic district on the west side of Atlanta. White-columned antebellum plantation houses are quite rare; the most common type of 19th-century house is the Georgian Cottage, and the most common types of historic houses in the state are early 20th century front-gabled Bungalows and 20th century Ranch Houses. Houses, with their landscaped yards and associated domestic archaeological resources, form a special category of historic property known as "Georgia's Living Places." In rural areas, historic houses serve as the centerpieces of farms and plantations. In communities, houses grouped together create historic neighborhoods.
Commercial buildings including stores, offices, and other places of business are the second most numerous type of historic building in the state, but they comprise only about seven percent of Georgia's historic buildings. Most of them tend to be concentrated in communities, often forming cohesive business districts or "downtowns," although some like the country store are found in sparsely settled rural areas and others like the corner store are situated in residential neighborhoods. Common commercial buildings include one- to three-story small-town "storefront" buildings, larger city business blocks, and urban skyscrapers.
Industrial buildings in Georgia are not numerous, constituting only two percent of all surveyed buildings, yet they represent some of the largest, most highly engineered, and most economically important historic buildings in the state. They include factories, textile mills, grist and saw mills, warehouses, cotton gins, ice and power plants, loft-type manufacturing buildings, and warehouses. In many smaller Georgia cities, a distinctive form of self-contained community, the mill village, is found around some industrial buildings, usually late 19th and early 20th century textile mills. Rural gristmills with their dams and millponds often are located in isolated areas near sources of waterpower.
Community landmark buildings are a small but diverse group of important historic buildings that housed community institutions such as local governments, religious groups, civic organizations, and schools or served important community functions such as railroad transportation. Common examples include courthouses, city halls, post offices, churches and other places of worship, lodges, clubhouses, theaters, auditoriums, gymnasiums, libraries, jails, hospitals, fire stations, depots, and community centers. Although they account for only five percent of all historic buildings, community landmark buildings are prominent due to their large size, architectural treatments, strategic locations, community functions, and historical associations. They are often focal points in their communities.
- Agricultural buildings are found in most areas of the state, usually grouped with other buildings, structures, and landscape features on farms or plantations. They typically include farmhouses, tenant farmhouses, barns and sheds, storage and processing buildings, detached kitchens, smokehouses, blacksmith shops, and offices. Historically, agriculture dominated land use in the state, and agricultural buildings were numerous across the entire state. Today, they are relatively rare and in more urbanized areas of the state have virtually disappeared.