Learn About the Journey of Decatur’s Swanton House at January “Lunch and Learn”

swanton house

Head over to the Old DeKalb Courthouse on Tuesday, January 19th and learn about one of Decatur’s most transient buildings, the Swanton House!  If you’ve ever wondered why Swanton Way in downtown Decatur is so far removed from the house that also bears its name, this will be the lunch and learn for you!

From the DeKalb History Center

DECATUR – The January Lunch & Learn presented by our archivist Fred Mobley will chronicle the various plans for historic restoration that were developed and considered for the Swanton House in the early 1960s until the dedication ceremonies on December 10th, 1972.  Come learn the fascinating history of this house including the various concepts that were up for consideration.  and the final results reflecting not only on the practices of historic preservation of that period but the forces at play in the cultural landscape that landed the Historic Swanton House where it sits today.

The Benjamin Swanton House is one of the oldest structures still standing in Decatur – it has a log cabin as its core estimated to have been built about 1825.  The house was enlarged and updated throughout its long history, each change reflecting the popular trends of the times.

Utilizing his Master in Heritage Preservation and educational experience gained at the Jefferson Monticello Historic Landscape Institute, and the Georgia Historic Landscape Initiative Fellowship at the Cherokee Garden Library of the Atlanta History Center, Mobley will use resource materials from the DHC Archives to show the house’s changing history. Mobley received his Master in Heritage Preservation-Public History Track from Georgia State University in August 2010.

Free!  Bring your lunch.

Tuesday, January 19, Noon – 1:00 p.m.

Historic DeKalb Courthouse, 101 E. Court Square, Decatur GA 30030, Second Floor, Superior Courtroom

Love this old 1965 photo of the Swanton House provided by the DeKalb History Center.  This is while it still sat in downtown Decatur.

Where’s the Outcry To Help Preserve Decatur’s Oldest Building?

How did this happen?

One of the agenda items on the docket for tonight’s city commission meeting is providing up to $10,000 to the DeKalb History Center so it can put a new roof on the Swanton House.  While $5,000 is already included in this year’s budget, the city manager recommends that the commission give the DeKalb History Center a $5,000 advance on next year to cover the $10,000.

After reading this I was genuinely shocked that the DHC has to approach the city to come up with enough money to put such a critical item like NEW ROOF on the oldest building in the city . Here’s how the executive director of the DeKalb History Center, Melissa Forgey, describes it in a note to the city manager (page 13)…

“We are asking for a greater amount this year so that we can replace the wood shingle roof on the Swanton House; this type of shingle now has a very short life-span.  It is in great disrepair, continues to leak and is an eyesore to the neighbors.”

There are few things more threatening to a historic home than a failing roof.  And though it no longer sits at its original location, it’s upsetting to me that the city’s oldest building (circa 1825) has such extensive structural problems and the DHC has to go to the city for assistance.  Why is no one else acting on this?  Where are the hardcore preservationists? The Historic Preservation Commission? The Preservation Alliance?  Is there really no public desire for conserving such an important city landmark?