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Posted: April 8, 2014 10:00 p.m.

Funds raised for historic home move

Celeste Sigman Dupree’s 156-year-old house can soon call a new site home, thanks to an anonymous donor and other community members who fought for 10 years to raise the funds needed to save the historic building.

The Historic Preservation Society of Social Circle had already raised $40,000 to be used toward moving and restoration costs, as had been previously reported, but a March 15 deadline asked the public for help securing the remaining $7,000.

Mike Owens, owner of Magnolia Manor, the home’s future location on N. Cherokee Road in Social Circle, said while residents responded to the fundraising effort, an anonymous donor sent in the entire $7,000.

The Covington News initially reported that the First Baptist Church of Social Circle gave $10,000. The preservation society also put in $10,000, the first time the group donated its own funds toward saving a building, according to its president, Dena Johnston.

“We just felt we absolutely had to,” Johnston said. “Celeste was such a pioneer (of) and a huge benefactor to the society. To see the house destroyed was just simply not acceptable.”

Jay Henderson, chair of the church’s building and grounds committee and vice-chair of the deacons, said he was glad the home is being moved instead of torn down, which would have happened had the funding not been secured. The home was sold to the church when Dupree died in 2005. Involved parties have been trying to move it since, during which time the church extended its permit with the city, but a final deadline approached that required action.

“This is going to be the best situation for everybody,” Henderson said, “for the good of the whole community and the church. We prefer to see the house move than tear it down, but it had been drug on for so long.”

While no concrete plans or designs have been made for the soon-to-be empty space, Henderson said part of the deal between the church and the preservation society involved a small park and prayer garden to be built by the road.

Henderson has already handed the keys over to Owens, who is heading plans for the move, set for July, and restoration later this year.

Owens said it usually costs more to tear a historic building down than to move it, but there are obstacles to overcome before it can rest behind Magnolia Manor as the Dupree Cottage in the Garden.

“The move is very complicated. We’re dealing with a 150-something-year-old home, plus there are a lot of complications with the power and communications companies,” Owens said.

Owens has to hire a mover, remove the front porch and back rooms, move power lines and transformers and cut down a few trees at Magnolia Manor to fit the new addition. Once set, restoration can begin, which Owens said is the easier part.

“There’s a lot of structural unknowns we’re dealing with,” Owens said. “Mayor (Dally) was very active. One of the biggest hurdles was we couldn’t get a real price from Georgia Power and other utilities to move it, and he got them to nail down a price to make it economically feasible.”

Not being used for anything right now, the home will provide four cottage-style bedrooms that can be rented for weddings and other events that Magnolia Manor already hosts.

“It will give some additional lodging in the town, and it will continue to add to the historic appeal,” Owens said. “The historic value is something that’s just intangible.”

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