by Rashad O’Conner
Restoration of historic property inches closer
The Goodale house, which has been admired by historians, haunted by ghosts and vandalized by thieves, has received a vital restoration grant that could bring it one big step closer to its former glory.
The Metro Spirit reported on the plight of the historic house in May. In July, Historic Augusta’s Executive Director Erick Montgomery and the property’s owner, Alabama investor Wes Sims, announced the award of a $5,000 National Trust intervention grant to draft a stabilization plan for the Goodale’s restoration.
Robyn Anderson, Historic Augusta’s preservation services director, stated that the organization has been encouraging Sims to pursue the building’s preservation since it suffered a wall collapse last year.
“We started to look into ways to help him move this process forward and make it a priority,” she said. “So, we identified the intervention grant. This particular grant is actually available year-round, but the money they [the National Trust] distribute is extremely limited.”
Since the purpose behind the intervention grant is to resolve preservation problems immediately, Anderson said that the group applied for the grant back in May. By the time Historic Augusta went through a committee review, the preservation organization was told it would be receiving the grant money this month.
Sims, who was in the Goodale house two days before its west wall collapsed, said that his course of action will be to use the grant money to first assess the damages and then follow through with full restoration.
“When I was in the house before the collapse I had noticed a small separation in the wall, and I remember saying then that this separation would be the first thing we needed to secure,” he said. “I think that previous attempts at repairs [to the house] were what caused the wall’s collapse. A lot of it was also caused by deterioration and weather-related damages.”
With the intervention grant, Anderson is hoping that those damages will be professionally evaluated and then repaired. As far as the budget is concerned, Anderson said that in addition to basic structural reinforcements, other immediate needs — from drywall damage to various acts of vandalism — will also be taken into consideration.
“Once we know how much those needs will cost to repair, we’ll have Sims come up with a preservation timeline so that those areas will be secured and that any deterioration will be halted,” she said. “Hopefully, once we have finished a professional evaluation of things, we’ll be able to kick the actual restoration into high gear.”
While looting has been an issue in the past — Sims says that bandits have not only stolen copper out of Goodale’s basement, but also petty items, such as ravioli from the house’s refrigerator — the investor has isolated a much bigger problem.
“During my last trip up there, I discovered that someone had kicked in the door and cut out the electrical wires from my power box,” Sims said. “I actually had power and water running prior to that break-in, so I was pretty much devastated there.”
Sims hopes to have the 1799-era inn reach tip-top shape after transferring ownership of the building over to his newest nonprofit, the Historic Home Preservation Society. Since grants are rarely doled out to private individuals, Anderson considers Sims’ choice to switch ownership a wise one.
“Once he gets his nonprofit status secured and approved, it will definitely be a little easier for him to acquire grants for either interpretation or bricks and border-type of situations,” Anderson said. “But we [Historic Augusta] plan to continue aiding and advising Sims in any capacity he sees fit.”
Sims, who is now in the process of putting a capital campaign together to assist in raising funds for additional rebuilding, said that although both he and the engineers are “sort of in the dark” budget-wise as far as structural analysis goes, he is determined to see the project through hand-in-hand with Historic Augusta.
“Without their [Historic Augusta’s] help, we wouldn’t be at the point we’re at now and we wouldn’t be getting things underway,” Sims said. “Erick and I have discussed different plans of action over the phone, so I’m continuing to work with closely them.”
While it remains hard to say when reconstruction will officially get underway or what will become of Goodale — a bed and breakfast is on the investor’s shortlist of ideas — Sims said that the road to restoration will be a painstaking one.
“If it were up to me, I’d go over with brooms, bricks and lime and bring the place back up myself, but it’s just not that simple in this day and age.”
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