COVINGTON - The public is invited to see the restoration work recently completed on the historic Brick Store, the oldest brick building in the county. An open house will take place from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at 12901 U.S. Hwy. 278.
"This has been such a long project, to apply for the grant and be awarded the grant ... We're excited to finally reach this point, so we decided to have an informal open house," said Debbie Bell, the county landscape architect who also works with the Special Projects Department.
The restoration of the building is the first phase of a two-part project that will eventually include the transformation of the building into a stagecoach museum.
Work included redoing improper repairs made about 10 years ago.
Brickwork was repaired using lime mortar. Brick was 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.
Repairs were made to the floor and structural and drainage problems were addressed. The building also has new shutters and doors. Brick Store also has had 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.
An interesting occurrence during the project was the discovery of a diagonal pattern of nails across the back door, which had a window, Bell said. The nails held in place a cow hide or other type of hide that was used to keep out the wind, the project architect determined. So, a hide was placed across the new door after it was installed.
Interpretive panels providing information on the history of the building will also be placed outside.
The work was 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.
Funding for the museum phase of the project is not yet in place.
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 years, 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.