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Society obtains Heritage Grant

COVINGTON - The Newton County Historical Society has received a $9,000 Georgia Heritage Grant to assist with preservation of Brick Store, the oldest brick building in the county.

The money, combined with $6,000 in matching funds from the Historical Society, will assist with preparation of a Historic Structure's Report by a preservation architect. The report will assess the building's condition, document physical changes and provide recommendations for preservation.

The ultimate goal is to turn the historic site into a museum focusing on the history of the stagecoach and to restore the interior of the building to its original 1820s design, according to Bill Hodges, chairman of the Brick Store Committee.

Located on U.S. Highway 278 just east of Ga. Highway 11, the Brick Store itself was built circa 1821, and, in addition to being the first brick building in Newton County, it was also the site of the first Superior Court.

Though the court only met there once before the county seat was designated as Newtonsborough, now Covington, the building continued to be used for magistrate hearings.

Situated along what was once a well-traveled stagecoach route, from Charleston to New Orleans and from Ruckersville to Milledgeville, then the state capital, the general store, along with a nearby inn and tavern, catered to tired and hungry travelers.

The inn was still standing until the early 1930s. It was used as a residence after stagecoach accommodations were no longer needed and was torn down after it fell into disrepair.

The store closed in 1935 and sat empty for decades, slowly decaying. In 1971, concerned the store would completely deteriorate, owner Charles Malvin Jordan deeded the landmark to the Newton County Historical Society, and members raised funds for a restoration.

Now, society members are once again hoping to salvage Brick Store, this time from being forgotten in the midst of growth and new development.

The museum idea is meant to encourage public visitation. Wayside exhibits - often seen in national and state parks - will be used to tell the story of the building, Hodges said.

The museum will primarily focus on the site's significance as a stagecoach stop.

The Georgia Heritage Grant Program awarded 11 grants totaling $102,348 for fiscal year 2008. The program is administered by the Historic Preservation Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and provides matching grants for planning and feasibility studies as well as stabilization, preservation, rehabilitation and restoration activities.

The Historical Society has also applied for a $250,000 grant from the Georgia Department of Transportation and is in the process of applying for inclusion on the National Historic Register, Hodges said.

The society is also accepting donations from the community.

Tax deductible donations should be made payable to the Newton County Historical Society and mailed to the attention of Kim Kelly, treasurer, at P.O. Box 2415.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.