What Local Historic District DOES NOT do: · Does not regulate paint colors · Does not require repairs or renovations to be made · Does not increase taxes beyond normal increases for the City or County · Does not prevent additions · Does not prevent non-contributing homes from being demolished · Does not require use of historic materials or historic building methods · Does not require that you open you home to the public · Does not restrict routine maintenance of properties
What Local Historic District DOES do: · Recognizes that Oakhurst has a distinctive historic character important to the overall character of the City of Decatur · Encourages creative and compatible development with historic areas · Requires that a Certificate of Appropriateness be obtained for exterior changes to contributing properties, demolition of buildings, and new construction. · Applies only to major renovations to the exterior of your home. Interior renovations are not restricted.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

A Little Bit of History

History Finds It’s Way to Our Doorstep

In August 2002 my husband and I bought our first home, 244 Third Avenue. We were drawn to the slight curve of the tree lined street and row of classic bungalows. We knew this was home.

It took four months to renovate but it was so worth it. We felt it important to maintain the original feel of the home. We restored some layers and peeled away others. Vintage toys were found in far corners of the dirt basement, marbles and long lost jewelry in the A/C ducts. When we pulled out the vanity in the bathroom we discovered discarded razor blades from the 1940’s. Stuck in a kitchen pantry wall we found a William Randolph Hurst Newspaper from the early 1920's. At times I thought I smelled smoke or freshly sprayed perfume in the back hallway. Everything we discovered about our home's history made us more connected to it.

By Christmas we were living in our home. We married in the spring of 2003 merging his family from the northern England and mine from southern United States. Our son Kai was born July, 2004. He took his first steps and said his first words here. As I walk around my home I often think of the families that were here before us. Some got married, some had children, they gathered for Holidays and Sunday dinners. We now share similar memories.

One day three women were at the foot of my driveway chatting and taking pictures of my home. As I stepped out to greet them they scurried up, delighted to tell me that their Grandmother, Harriett Ferry Williamson, lived in this home for over 40 years. Kathy du Plesses, Marty Beth Lytal and Susan Wyman- three cousins were about to take a walk down memory lane.

As we walked up the front steps they paused wondering if the yellow glider could possibly be the same one they enjoyed as children. They and nine other cousins spent the summers sleeping out on the front screened-in porch together. Throughout our tour they shared laughter, tears and a remembrance of a home that was so much more than walls, doors, windows and floors.

Their piano sat in the dining room. Grandmother’s room was in the back with a vanity right where mine is now. She took great pleasure sitting at the vanity for a smoke and absolutely loved to spray perfume in the hall as she walked through the mist. The family who lived in back had chickens. The well known Dr. Smoot lived next door. A peeping Tom from Feld would sometimes peer from the front steps into the window of the front bedroom where Harriett Ferry and her two daughters shared a room; so many stories to share.

On Mother's Day weekend of this year, ten members of the Williamson family visited. It was Harriett Williams’ 80th birthday and a treasured moment for their family and ours.

Great-Grandmother Harriett Maudsley Ferry’s son Lou bought this house for her and his older sister, Winifred in 1924 for $7000.00! The three lived here from 1925-1935. In 1935 the home was shared by Harriett Ferry Williamson and her daughters, Harriett and Dorothy, “Aunt Dot” who shared the front room/parlor, two brothers Dick and Russell shared the middle bedroom and Great-Grandmother Harriett Maudsley Ferry and her daughter Winifred “Aunt Fred” shared the back bedroom. Yes, seven people, three of which were named Harriett, shared one tiny bathroom! They could see Stone Mountain from the top of the house. Produce peddlers used to sell their wares up and down the street shouting “yo peaches and yo apples”. Honeysuckle and fruit trees were scattered throughout the yards. On Sunday mornings the neighborhood pianist, Ruby Alexander could be heard across the street singing and playing her heart out. From our front porch you could also hear the congregation at Oakhurst Baptist Church singing hymns.

The family members graciously sent us stories and photos of their home from almost every decade: Young Harriett's 1936 communion picture in front of the peach tree in the back yard. Great-Grandmother Harriett Ferry in 1948 standing in front of her prized climbing roses. Son-in-laws, Ted Williams and Bill Mahon (football player for Georgia Tech) smiling mischievously in the front yard as Mother Harriett Williamson looks on in the background. Twelve cousins piled on the glider on the front porch in the summer of 1960. They are a wonderfully close family. We are fortunate to be able to share their memories.

I now realize that the day we signed the mortgage we were not just buying a home, we were now a part of the history this home, of Oakhurst, and a continuation of the cycle of family, memories, welcoming neighbors, trees and life.