One of the county’s oldest and most historically significant buildings is one step closer to being revitalized and once again made into a historical destination.
The Brick Store, built around 1821 and recognized as the county’s oldest surviving building, was recently placed on the National Register of Historic Places after nearly two years of research by members Newton County Historical Society.
The society’s eventual goal is to turn the Brick Store, located on U.S. Highway 278 about half a mile east of the intersection of Ga. Highway 11, 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.
District 1 Commissioner Mort Ewing said he was excited to see the building refurbished, because it holds a special place in his heart.
"Brick Store has always been home to me, not only is it in my commission district, but 70 plus years ago I was born about a mile from Brick Store. I’ve always thought of Brick Store as home," Ewing said. "I’m very thankful that the society has taken the lead to get Brick Store refurbished and get it back to a point where it is recognized as a very important part of Newton County, not only as Newton County history but as Newton County today."To accomplish this rehabilitation, the society received a $250,000 grant from the Georgia Department of Transportation to rehabilitate the building while maintaining its historical integrity. The society is providing matching funds of around $55,000.
County Landscape Architect Debbie Bell, the county’s liaison for the project and society’s secretary, said that building needs several repairs, including work on both the wooden parts of the building and masonry. She said non-historic additions need to be removed, like some of the interior boards and shelves.
At the Aug. 4 Board of Commissioners meeting, the BOC approved the low bid of $14,000 from the architectural firm of Carter, Watkins Associates Architects to design the rehabilitation construction documents for the building and bid out and oversee the actual construction. The $14,000 will be paid from the $250,000 grant, but the BOC approved the money because the county is acting as the fiscal agent for the grant along with the Northeast Georgia Regional Commission.
The bid documents should be completed in eight to 10 weeks and construction will probably start in three to six months, Bell said.
The $250,000 will likely only cover the rehabilitation, and the society will seek additional grants to pay for the development of the museum. Bell said the museum would likely be staffed by volunteers.
Bell said the society hasn’t finalized plans for the museum, but it will focus on its use as a major stagecoach stop.
"We have good documentation that there was a carriage making business, a blacksmith shop, a post office and various other activities located there. The dirt portion of Old Social Circle Road, which you can see in front of the building, is the remnant of the old road. It was called Rogue Road on very old maps (dating back to 1819) and probably served as a footpath for Native Americans before that," Bell said in an e-mail. "The museum will be open to residents and tourists and school groups. It will be staffed by volunteers; these are future plans so we don’t have details such as hours of operation yet. There will be interpretive panels outside so people can learn about the site even when the museum is not open."
She said the society already owns a number of artifacts that will be appropriate for furnishing Brick Store and other items may come as loans from society members or other residents of the county. As of yet, she hasn’t identified any antique stagecoaches.
A fundraiser for Brick Store is in the planning stages.