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Church seeks takers to relocate historic Social Circle home

The Social Circle home features several fireplaces.

The Social Circle home features several fireplaces.

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First Baptist Church of Social Circle member Johnny Pickens, left, and Tom Brown, president of the Social Circle Historic Preservation Commission, stand outside the historic Social Circle home which is available for relocation.

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This curved wall in the dining room is a common feature in Victorian homes.

A pre-Civil War house can be yours for free, provided you're willing to invest in relocation fees -- not the cost of moving into the house, but the money it will take to move the house from is current location to another one.

The First Baptist Church of Social Circle owns the historic home and the two acres it sits on, located next to the church at 221 North Cherokee Road, in the heart of downtown Social Circle.

Church officials want the house removed so the church can expand. Before they take measures to demolish it, church members want to give the old house an opportunity to survive.

They've reached an agreement with the Social Circle Historic Preservation Commission whereby the church will allow a year's time for anyone interested to move the house. The house is free and the church is offering $10,000 towards the moving cost, the amount that it would have spent in demolishing it.

"We do not want to tear the house down," said church representative Johnny Pickens, who added that movers have deemed the house can withstand a relocation.

To make the offer even more attractive to potential bidders, the Social Circle Historic Preservation Society has agreed to match the church's $10,000, which means $20,000 of the moving cost -- which movers have estimated at a minimum of $50,000 -- is covered.

Historic Preservation Society President Dena Johnston said the society would contribute the additional funds only if the house is moved to a location within Social Circle, and placed on a permanent foundation, protected from the elements until it can be restored.

Built in the late 1850s, the house is a one-story Victorian cottage with hardwood floors, three fireplaces, a wide foyer/hallway, front room, several bedrooms, a kitchen, a dining area and two bathrooms.

The house is a modest one, and the value doesn't lie so much in the structure as it does in the fact that an important Social Circle community member resided there.

A historic preservation advocate and a successful business woman in the 1950s and 60s, Celeste Sigman Dupree grew up in the house. She built a career working for Citizens and Southern Bank in the role of vice president, and specialized in turning ailing banks into thriving ones.

"She was a remarkable woman," said Johnston.

Though she lived in Atlanta as an adult, Dupree visited Social Circle often to visit her parents who lived in the home, and she returned to live in the Social Circle home full time in 1977 to take care of her mother.

Over the course of several years, she purchased and restored as many as 15 historic homes in Social Circle, and served as a charter member of the Historic Preservation Society of Social Circle.

"She encouraged me in my career and gave me my house in exchange for my fixing it up," said step daughter-in-law Nathalie Dupree, a well-known chef, cookbook author and cooking show host, who taped some television shows out of her former Social Circle home.

"She was passionate about Social Circle and old homes and was concerned whenever she saw a house in disrepair. She paid to have many of the old buildings 'downtown' painted so we would have a pretty downtown."

Social Circle Mayor Hal Dally said Dupree's assertive personality proved an asset in her efforts to restore the older homes in Social Circle.

"She was a pistol. She was strong willed and if she wanted to do something, she would do it," said Dally.

Celeste Dupree died in 2005 at the age of 85, and the First Baptist Church purchased the property and her home in 2007.

When the house is finally removed, whether by demolition or relocation, the church intends to build a memorial garden in honor of Celeste Dupree.

Dally said that church is making efforts to be "a good citizen" and everyone involved with the relocation project is looking forward to a positive outcome.

"Everybody's working hard to save the house," said Dally.

Those interested in touring the house for possible relocation can contact Johnny Pickens at First Baptist Church of Social Circle at 770-464-2628.