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Local structures honored for historic preservation

Two homes in McDuffie County received an award at the 2006 Georgia Preservation Award Ceremony in Athens, Saturday, April 22. Hickory Hill, owned by the Watson-Brown Foundation, won an Excellence in Restoration award; and Alexandria, owned by William Dunn Wansley, won an Excellence in Rehabilitation award.


From left, Georgia Trust Chairman Ron Christman, Alexandria Nominator Betty Slaton, Elizabeth, Stevi, and William Wansley; Georgia Trust President & CEO Greg Paxton at Saturday's ceremony in Athens.

The awards are given by The Georgia Trust, a statewide non-profit organization that promotes and protects Georgia's historic resources. The organization gives several awards, which are based on function and form.

According to the organization's website, during the restoration of a building, the goal is to accurately depict the form, features and character of a property as it appeared at a particular period of time. To stay true to an era, features added during other periods in the structure's history must be removed and missing features from the restoration period are reconstructed using all available evidence.

Hickory Hill was constructed in the 1860's as the residence of Thomas E. Watson. Mr. Watson was a House Representative in 1882, a Presidential Candidate in 1904 and 1908, and a Senator from 1920-1922.

The four-over-four Greek Revival mansion was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. The Watson-Brown Foundation began extensive rehabilitation in 200 to return the home to its 1920 appearance. With the help of oral histories, manuscript collections, historic photographs and remnants of original wallpaper, historic features inside and outside the home were restored. Original furnishings were placed inside following restoration.


Alexandria was the lone private residence honored in Athens.

"The Foundation staff and trustees are truly honored to receive this recognition from the Georgia Trust. Hickory Hill is significant and meaningful to us, so it is gratifying to have the acknowledgement from the Trust that Tom Watson's Grecian temple in exile (Watson's own words) is recognized as noteworthy to Georgia's history as well," said Michelle Zupan, museum curator.

Hickory Hill is open to the public for tours, offers educational classes and camps in history and science to children, and hosts the annual Tom Watson Watermelon Festival, which draws hundreds of visitors each summer.

The rehabilitation of a building makes possible a modern or contemporary use through repair, alterations or additions to a historic structure. This type of project preserves the significant features of the structure, which convey its historical and architectural values and features, including historic changes. This approach is generally preferred by preservationists because it preserves historic fabric from the course of the building's history. Because it allows for contemporary or adaptive use, it is also the most prevalent preservation treatment.

Alexandria was built from 1803 to 1806 by Revolutionary War soldier Thomas Carr. Mr. Carr served under General Francis Marion, became a Colonel in the Army of the French Republic, and participated in the Genet Rebellion with Elijah Clark.

The two-over-four Federal style house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. It is the oldest documented brick house in Georgia, and it features rubbed and gauged brick lintels and a full copper roof.

Mr. Wansley, a great nephew of Carr, bought the house and surrounding land in 1995 and, acting as general contractor, began rehabilitation to return the home to its 1806 appearance. Cracked horsehair plaster was repaired, sheetrock walls were removed and replaced with plaster, antique heart pine board or Georgia marble, a heating and air system was installed that would control humidity, the wooden shake roof was replaced with copper, and original elements hidden by previous renovation work was unmasked and restored. The original interior floor plan remains intact.

Mr. Wansley lives in the house with his wife and daughter.

"Alexandria represents a number of my passions, including historic preservation, environmental protection art and antiques. I consider Alexandria to be a door, as a whole new world has opened forth, in which we have met many wonderful people... The people are what's important," Mr. Wansley said.

Web posted on Thursday, April 27, 2006

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