Delayed Brick Store project to begin

COVINGTON - Repairs to the oldest brick building in the county will soon begin.

Brick Store will be undergoing a restoration and stabilization in the coming months. Work will include redoing improper repairs made about 10 years ago.

County Landscape Architect Debbie Bell, who also works with the Special Projects department, said that brickwork will be repaired using lime mortar. Brick is currently cracking where Portland cement was used to replace old mortar around 2003, Bell said.

"The type of bricks used 100 to 200 years ago are different from what you get commercially today. They used softer brick, softer mortar. The old bricks expand and contract with moisture and temperature fluctuations. Modern mortar and cements don't expand with it. They are harder than the brick and the result is the brick starts to break up," she said.

In addition to the repair work, the building will undergo a facade change to reflect the design from the 1930s, when the porch across the front was roofed and a small covered porch was at the back door.

"We don't know exactly what the building looked like 100 years ago but photos from the 1930s show the porch different from what it is today," Bell said.

Interpretive panels providing information on the history of the building will also be placed outside.

The work will be funded through a $250,000 federal Transportation Enhancement Grant, with the Newton County Historical Society providing a 20 percent match of $62,500. The Historical Society owns the building and has a long-term lease with the county. The lease allows the county to act as sponsor for the grant, which is only available to governments.

Though the grant was initially awarded in 2008, changes with the Georgia Department of Transportation's review process delayed the project, Bell said.

With the agreement approved, GDOT is expected to authorize construction funds and advertising for bids will take place in April, with the contract to be awarded in June and construction completed in November.

Plans to transform the interior into a stagecoach museum reflecting the area's history as a transportation hub are still alive, but funding is not currently available.

Built circa 1821 and located at the intersection of U.S. Highway 278 and Old Social Circle Road, Brick Store is one of the oldest buildings in the county, and the third oldest commercial building in the state.

The county's first Superior Court was held there, and over the course of 150 years, the building served as a post office, stagecoach stop, blacksmith shop and carriage maker's shop.

After closing around 1935, the building sat vacant for about 20 yeas, falling into disrepair, until undergoing a renovation in 1973 after it was purchased by the Historical Society.

The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2009.