Restoration of a Greek Revival Cottage, Talbot County

Rising above the pristine countryside of Talbot County, this house first caught my attention a couple of years ago. At the time, work was at an earlier phase and it didn’t look as grand as it does today. I made a mental note to check on it when I could but was still not prepared for the awesome presence of the house, viewed from the incline of the clay and gravel driveway.

I recently learned that my family’s longtime friend Mike Buckner owned the house and was restoring it. I was in the area and dropped by to purchase some books and get some of his wonderful stone-ground grits and he offered to take me on a tour. Though he wouldn’t say so, Mike is an all-around Renaissance man and serious guardian of Talbot County’s history and architecture. He has personally saved and salvaged numerous endangered structures over the years.

Mike moved this 1840s Greek Revival Cottage, which once stood near Zion Episcopal Church in Talbotton, to his property and decided to transform it into a raised cottage. The brick piers supporting the cottage were salvaged from the old Talbotton depot, proof that Mike doesn’t believe in wasting anything. The Doric columns were made to order.

The lower floor will be somewhat modern, while keeping with the style of the house, and the original section of the cottage will be sensitively restored. Historic mantels will be put back in place and the floors will be spiffed up. Plaster walls will be replaced. A widow’s walk has already been placed on top of the structure. I will definitely be visiting when all the work is done.

On the back side of the house Mike is building a porch, which will afford some of the most beautiful views from one of the highest elevations in this part of Talbot County.

It’s an amazing sight and the entire project is a testament to the value of the renewal of historic resources.

Hiram Knowlton House, Circa 1838, Talbot County

This exceptional Greek Revival cottage was built circa 1838 by Hiram Knowlton (c.1805-1875). Knowlton was a master carpenter and millwright who came to Talbot County from New York in 1836; he purchased the property on which the home is located from Chestley Pearson in 1838. The distinctive diamond panes in the transom and sidelights, as well as the diminutive dormers, are notable decorative features of the one-and-a-half story dwelling. A hand-carved molded stairway with delicate banisters dominates the main hall. William H. Davidson, in A Rockaway in Talbot: Travels in an Old Georgia County Vol. II notes that it is “..a triumph of carpentry…it is a much more sophisticated stair than usually found in Talbot County early houses…”. A second narrow stairway in the rear of the house leads to the upper floor, which may have originally housed servants. *[Due to ongoing work in the house, I was unable to get many interior shots, but I’ll be sharing more views in a future update].

After Knowlton’s death, the property passed to Luke A. Crawford, of Upson County, a son-in-law of Hiram Knowlton’s second wife. It was sold to Henry Butler in 1905. It remained in the Butler family for well over a century and was known to many as the Butler Plantation.

Original mantel in the upper floor

I am grateful to the present owners, Jim & Deborah Bruce, for welcoming me into their home, and to Mike Buckner for taking me for a visit. Jim’s extensive collection of vernacular African-American art is a wonderful complement to the interior.

Cotton Mill, Forsyth

This old brick mill building, with its distinctive towers, is located just beside I-75 north of Forsyth. It was a landmark on trips to and from Atlanta when I was a child. It’s an old cotton mill, perhaps the Brighton Mill, but was later part of Bibb Manufacturing Company, which built a modern mill behind it sometime after World War II. Today, it’s home to a discount furniture business. I will update when I learn more about the history.

Hall and Parlor Farmhouse, Monroe County

This house, likely a tenant structure and part of a larger historic farm, is located just north of Forsyth.

Atlanta and Hawkinsville Railroad Depot, 1888, Zebulon

The Atlanta and Hawkinsville Railroad was chartered in 1886 and, though it never reached Hawkinsville, built this depot along the way in 1888. The line was renamed the Atlanta and Florida Railway in 1893 and was sold to the Southern Railway in 1895.

In recent years, the depot was beautifully restored and is now home to the Lions Club and used for other functions, as well.

Pettigrew-White-Stamps House, Circa 1833, Thomaston

This Greek Revival cottage was built on North Church Street in 1833 by John E. Pettigrew. In 1840, Benjamin B. White purchased the house and added an additional bedroom, dining room, kitchen and verandah across the rear of the structure. The Stamps family bought the house at some point in the 1880s and remained until 1968. During that year, the house was moved to its present location by the Upson Historical Society to save it from demolition. It is the second oldest house in Thomaston.

It is now a museum, open by appointment with the Upson Historical Society.

St. Mary A. M. E. Church, 1905, Thomaston

Freedmen established this historic congregation in 1867. James McGill writes in his fascinating book, The First One Hundred Years of Upson County Negro History (2017): By the summer of 1870, Reverend William Harris was sent to St. Mary AME Church in Thomaston, Georgia. Rev. Harris, the third pastor in the history of St. Mary, was born free in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1845 but was kidnapped in 1858 and sold into slavery in Georgia. He escaped to the North two years later and eventually enlisted in the Union Army.

William Harris met Rev. M. Turner, a Presiding Elder of the AME Church, on the corner of Peachtree and Whitehall Streets in Atlanta in 1866…At the Atlanta Georgia District Conference of the AME Church, Rev. Turner licensed [Harris] as an exhorter, and then presented him a preacher’s license at the Wilmington Annual Conference in Wilmington, North Carolina. Rev. Harris received some schooling at what would later become Clarke College. Rev. Harris served Atlanta’s Western Mission for two years before being presented a deacon’s license in 1870 and appointed to St. Mary in Thomaston.

It is safe to assume that Rev. Harris taught school at St. Mary AME Church. St. Mary had a new church building completed that year [1870] which provided ample room for scholars. The school operated in St. Mary at least as late as 1876. Upson County did not open a public school in Thomaston for Negro students until August 1883; St. Mary can confidently claim credit for housing the first successful church school organized for the Negroes in Upson County.

The current church building was constructed in 1905 during the pastorate of Rev. J. H. Adams. Trustees were: H. R. Rogers; Ed Hix; A. G. Cary; George Bell; William Brown; James Brown; James W. Bell; M. Drake, Sr.; and A. Holsey. The church retains its original appearance, though stucco has been applied to the original brick.

Hannah’s Mill, 1859, Upson County

This gristmill was built on Ten Mile Creek in 1859 by Dr. J. W. Herring (1823-1911), who named it Rose Hill Mill. Dr. Herring was a physician by trade, but was also a well-known amateur engineer, having built several covered bridges in Upson County and vicinity, including the Auchumpkee Creek Covered Bridge. Notably, Rose Hill Mill was turbine operated, as opposed to the more common water-wheel system.

The mill was purchased in 1887 by Dr. George Whitfield Telford Hannah (1841-1906), a Confederate veteran and leading Thomaston physician. Since then it has been known as Hannah’s Mill. The surrounding community, now absorbed by Thomaston, is also known as Hannah’s Mill.

D. P. Harrell was the next owner, presumably following Dr. Hannah’s death. Since 1932, it has been owned by the Joseph W. McDonald family. The mill closed in the 1970s.

National Register of Historic Places

Folk Victorian Cottage, Bowersville

This extraordinary vernacular Queen Anne/Folk Victorian cottage is a great example of local craftsmanship being applied to a simple central hallway form. That it has survived so largely intact is a testament to the work, in my opinion. [The photograph dates to 2015 but the house was still standing when I went through Bowersville a couple of years ago].

Bowersville Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

Whirligig, Odessadale

Whirligigs can be very whimsical, but many are utilitarian, like this one I photographed in the Odessadale community several years ago.