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New life for old home

Society to restore house on park property

POSTED: January 29, 2013 12:30 a.m.
Autumn Vetter/

The Forsyth County Historical Society has taken on a restoration project at the Sherrill House, a historic home on county property in north Forsyth.

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While its windows are boarded up, the porch sags and once white paint has turned brown and gray, a historic home in northwestern Forsyth soon will see better days.

The Forsyth County Historical Society is leasing the unoccupied Sherrill House and about 2 surrounding acres on Old Federal Road from the county for $10 for five years.

The property was part of about 225 acres Forsyth bought in 2009 as part of the voter-approved $100 million parks, recreation and green space bond. The site, which borders the Etowah River, has since been renamed Eagle’s Beak Park.

After the initial Sherrill House lease expires, the arrangement will transition into a 15-year agreement for the society to use the house.

Members of the organization have begun taking on the challenge of cleaning and renovating the structure, which was built circa 1905 by the Sherrill family in the Frogtown-Hightower community.

Martha McConnell, who serves as co-president of the society with husband Jimmy, said members are eager to take on restoring the home and hopefully getting it placed on the National Historic Registry.

“If we could pick one spot in Forsyth County as the most historical, it would be this spot,” she said.

It is believed the property may have been the site of a Cherokee Indian settlement, according to historical society member George Pirkle.

“With this nice, large flat area [behind the house] there may have been a settlement there,” he said.

It is also believed that the tavern in which James Vann was killed in 1809 may once have sat on the property. Vann, the son of a Cherokee mother and Scottish father, was a prominent Cherokee leader in north Georgia in the late 1700s.

He was killed by gunfire at the tavern in north Forsyth. The structure is now part of the Cumming Fairgrounds’ Indian Village display.

“We think that James Vann might have been murdered on this property,” said historical society member Myra Reidy. “There’s some controversy about whether or not it was here, but everything in our research points that this is probably it.”

McConnell said the plan is to raise money for the project, and use in-kind donations of time and labor from society members and community volunteers.

“As far as the renovation, [the house] is really in very good shape,” she said. “The main thing would be the porch right now, that’s going to be our priority, and getting a good roof.”

McConnell said inspectors have told the group that the house’s foundation is sound and the inside “appears to be real sturdy.” The home, which has six rooms downstairs and three upstairs, could eventually be turned into a museum.

“We plan to have a pioneer and Native American museum because both the pioneers and Native Americans lived here and it just ties the community together,” she said.

The county government will not provide any funding to restore the Sherrill House.

“[Historical Society members] will be raising the funds for this project,” McConnell said. “We’ll be trying to get some grants and things, but we just don’t know about that yet.”

Added Reidy: “Donations of time or materials or money are all very much appreciated.”

McConnell hopes help will be easy to find since she said so many Forsyth residents seem pleased with the project.

“We’ve just had people crawling out of the woodwork telling us stories about visiting [the Sherrills] and [telling] us all the stories from around here,” she said.

“Every week, there’s just more people coming out or calling us and saying ‘I’m related to these people’ or ‘I lived on this property,’ ‘I lived next door’ or ‘We used to visit the Sherrills.’ So everybody’s just so excited about it.”

The home may also fit nicely with the county’s plans for Eagle’s Beak. Based on availability of funding, the green space park could house BMX bike and archery areas, a series of trails, primitive camp sites and a canoe launch into the Etowah.

 

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