NEWBORN - The Newborn Schoolhouse has had its doors open to the community, in one way or another, for more than 85 years. Now, those charged with maintaining the historic site are asking residents to open their hearts and pocketbooks to help repair it.
The circa 1923 building, which sits along Ga. Highway 142, has a heavily damaged roof, according to Holly Firth, chairwoman of the Newborn Area Heritage Trust.
There are broken beams and rafters, sagging spots and leaks.
"We've even got bricks coming off the edge of the roof," Firth said.
Repairs will cost an estimated $80,000 to $100,000. While insurance will cover hail damage to the shingles and the town of Newborn is expected to pitch in, the Newborn Area Heritage Trust will have to raise as much as $40,000, no small feat in a town the size of Newborn and in such a tough economy. But Firth said the future of the building, which holds so much of the town's past, depends on it.
"We're trying to save the schoolhouse," she said.
The damage was recently discovered when the leaky porch roof was repaired prior to installing new doors on the building. After the wood was found to be rotten on the porch, the rest of the roof was inspected and, "We just found a whole mess up there," Firth said.
"It's a good, solid building, but everything with age needs work," she added.
The trust has already raised about $7,000, partly through a local grant, but is struggling to come up with the remainder of the money.
One way they're trying to make up the shortfall is by holding regular fundraisers, such as community suppers and bingo tournaments.
Proceeds from the Horny Head Fishing Tournament and Festival set for Saturday outside the schoolhouse, will also go toward the roof fund, Firth said. Booths are available for rent at a cost of $10.
The festival will include music, food and activities for kids, along with the main attraction - the fishing tournament that has kids casting their lines in nearby creeks in hopes of catching the horny head fish. The odd-looking creature is about 6 to 8 inches long and has horn-like projections on its head. Registration is at 8 a.m. with the tournament beginning at 2 p.m. The festival is from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The schoolhouse includes the Horny Head Fish Museum, along with old pictures of town residents, Firth said.
It is also the home of the Newborn Opry, the site of the town's annual Christmas tree lighting and is rented out for weddings, church services and other events.
The building is owned by the town but is leased and maintained by the trust.
Firth said the goal is to keep the schoolhouse a viable part of the community.
"We're doing this for the community, and the community needs to know they can come out and enjoy this building," she said.
With all the recent April showers, the sooner repairs can begin the better, she added.
"We need to get it done before more rains come in and we lose our original floors," she said.
To make a donation to the roof repair fund, or for more information on upcoming fundraisers, call Firth at 770-361-2064.