The Newton County Historical Society is making headway on its plan to rehabilitate and restore Brick Store, the oldest brick building in the county.
The society has selected Carter, Watkins Associates Architects Inc. of Monroe to draw up the design and construction documents for the first phase of the project at a cost of $14,000.
The first phase will involve repairs to the building, including replacement of damaged and rotten wood flooring and framing and replacement of mortar and damaged bricks. In the past, repairs have been made with mortar composed of modern materials that has caused damaged to the bricks, said landscape architect Debbie Bell, who is the county's liaison for the project.
The mortar will be replaced with a kind that contains components similar to the original material used.
The building will also be made ADA accessible, in a way that conforms with its character.
"It's not a building we'd put an elevator in," Bell said.
The rehabilitation will be paid for through a $250,000 grant from the Georgia Department of Transportation with the Historical Society to fund the 20 percent required match and any additional costs. The society has money on hand and also plans to do fundraising, Bell said.
The county is acting as the fiscal agent for the grant in collaboration with the Northeast Georgia Regional Commission and the Historical Society.
Bell said it will take the architect two to three months to complete plans and then the project will be bid out. Rehabilitation could be complete in eight months to a year, she said, and then the second phase will begin.
The second phase of the project entails converting Brick Store into a museum reflecting its history: the building has served as a stagecoach stop, a post office, a general store and the first Superior Court of Newton County.
Brick Store, which sits off U.S. Highway 278 just east of Ga. Highway 11, was built circa 1821. The general 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. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places earlier this year.
Once the restoration is complete, the site could become a field trip destination for local students, Bell said. If needed, volunteers would staff the building, she said.
District 1 Commissioner Mort Ewing said representatives with Georgia Perimeter College are interested in having students volunteer at the site.
Bell said the society will be seeking additional grants to develop the museum.
Crystal Tatum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.