Newborn Schoolhouse closes for repairs

NEWBORN - The Newborn Schoolhouse will be closed for the next few months while roof repairs are under way.

All Newborn Opry shows have been canceled indefinitely, including the show scheduled for May 16.

A structural engineer recently examined the building and advised the Newborn Heritage Trust not to hold any functions there until the roof is fixed, said Bob Thompson, director of the Newborn Opry.

"He said it could be dangerous if we have functions in there, so we just canceled everything," including an upcoming wedding for which the building had been rented, Thompson said.

Repairs could take between two and three months, he said, adding that, "We plan to start back as soon as that roof is completed."

The roof of the circa 1923 building, which sits along Ga. Highway 142, is heavily damaged, with broken beams and rafters, sagging spots and leaks, according to Holly Firth, chairwoman of the Newborn Area Heritage Trust.

"We've even got bricks coming off the edge of the roof,"Firth said in a previous interview.

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

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.

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.

The schoolhouse includes the Horny Head Fish Museum, along with old pictures of town residents, Firth said.

In addition to being home of the Newborn Opry, it is 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.

To make a donation to the roof repair fund, or for more information on upcoming fundraisers, call Firth at 770-361-2064.

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