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Brick Store to have openhouse Sunday
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Newton County residents are invited to view the county's oldest building as the historic Brick Store will be open from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday so locals can see the repair work that's been done.

The building, built in 1821 and located on U.S. Highway 278 about half a mile east of the intersection of Ga. Highway 11, underwent $189,000 worth of repairs to prepare it for its eventual future as a history museum.

The brick building had significant woodwork and masonry repairs, drainage problems in the cellar addressed, copper gutters and downspouts installed, doors and shutters rebuilt, floors repaired, insulation blown into the roof space, front and back steps and porches replaced and plaster repaired and painted, according to Debbie Bell, the county's landscape architect and overseer of the project.

"People will be able to come inside the building and look around. For a long time, the floor was in such poor condition that it wasn't safe to take visitors inside," Bell said in an email. "Some of the artifacts that we uncovered in the cellar will be on display (although most of these aren't extremely old)."

Bell said one of the most interesting repair jobs was the back door restoration.

"The old door had dozens of small nails in it in a very obvious diagonal pattern but I didn't know what they were for. The architect determined that the nails had been holding a large hide in place across the door to block drafts so the new door is appropriately covered with a cowhide," Bell said.

She said the construction company John W. Spratlin & Son, also had to use another method not commonly seen in modern repair work.

The building still has work that must be done, including making it handicapped accessible and developing the actual museum.

Brick Store was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2009.

The Newton County Historical Society has been working on turning the building into a museum celebrating the building's various historical uses as the county's first courthouse, a post office and a general store. However, the museum will focus on Brick Store's use as a major stagecoach stop during the mid-1800s; it was located on an old wagon path between Charleston, S.C., and New Orleans, La. The society will conduct more fundraising to make the museum a reality.

The project was paid for by a $250,000 state grant, though the historical society provided the required 20 percent match. In addition to construction costs, the county paid $12,500 for grant administration while the historical society paid $14,000 for the restoration's architectural plans.

The society also received a grant of $15,000 for the required historic structure report, which Bell said is an assessment made by qualified architects of the condition of the building that makes recommendations for the appropriate treatments.