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Sherrill House renovation taking shape

POSTED: September 10, 2013 12:30 a.m.
Crystal Ledford/

Renovations have begun on the Sherrill House on Old Federal Road.

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Work on a restoration project in north Forsyth is moving forward.

Members of the Historical Society of Forsyth County have begun repairs to the Sherrill House on Old Federal Road.

The property was part of about 225 acres the county 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.

The nonprofit historical organization entered an agreement with the county earlier this year that allows it to lease the structure and two surrounding acres from the government for $10 for five years.

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

Martha McConnell, who serves as co-president of the society along with husband Jimmy, said eventually the society wants to use the house as a public history center.

“We want to call it the Native American and Pioneer Heritage Center,” she said.

That use is appropriate for the site, which McConnell in the past has called “the most historical spot in all of Forsyth County.”

It is believed the property may have been a site of a Cherokee Indian settlement in the 1700s.

In addition, many think that the tavern in which James Vann was killed in 1809 may once have sat on the site. 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. That structure is now part of the Cumming Fairgrounds’ Indian Village display.

The two-story home, which contains nine rooms in total, was built in 1905 by the Sherrill family. The area at that time was known as the Frogtown-Hightower community.

The house was occupied by members of the family through the late 1970s or early ’80s, McConnell said. It was then used as a rental property through the mid-1990s.

Since then, it has been unoccupied.

In recent weeks, Historical Society volunteers have secured building permits and begun the renovation with the help of John Kieffer, a local residential and general contractor, who has volunteered to oversee the repairs.

“When we finally got the permits, it was like, ‘OK, we know it’s going to happen,’” McConnell said. “We thought, ‘We’re officially on our way now.’”

As a north Forsyth resident, Kieffer said he was happy to help with the project, which is being paid for solely through donations and fundraisers.

“My background is architectural engineering and I love preservation of historic buildings and structures,” he said. “I live in the same community in northwest Forsyth off Heardsville [Road] so [the Sherrill House] is only about two miles from my home. It’s near and dear to my heart.”

Kieffer said the first item on the structure’s to-do list was securing the front porch, which was sagging and had several spots that had rotted out.

“The porch was about to fall off, so we stabilized it and we think we can save the porch structure,” Kieffer. “The next thing we’re going to do is remove the porch floor, so we can work on the foundation under the house.”

Another priority will be repairing the roof.

“There are a couple of issues with the roof that once repaired will keep the house in good shape, as long as we can keep the water out of there,” Kieffer said.

But he said the house is in fair condition.

“Structurally, the main house is in overall good condition considering the age,” he said. “I was excited to walk through it and pleased to see that it really was in a lot better shape on the inside than I expected.”

There’s no specific timeline for repairs to the structure, since the renovation will depend on many factors.

“The truth is unfortunately the availability of funds is going to drive the schedule,” Kieffer said. “We’re working with volunteers and a very limited budget, but we would like to do the important structural repairs and roof repairs [now] so … the house will be stabilized and not suffer any further decay or damage.”

McConnell said the society is selling a Forsyth County heritage book for $65, or two or more for $60 each. All proceeds from the book are going to the Sherrill House project.

In addition, Advanced Disposal’s Eagle Point Landfill, which is just a couple of miles up the road from the home, held a garden party fundraiser for the project in May.

“The community has really come forward to help out,” McConnell said.

Anyone interested in donating money, time or skills in construction or masonry are always welcome and appreciated, she added.

“This is a long-term project, so we welcome any help anyone wants to give,” she said.

Kieffer also is pleased to see the community step up to help.

“It’s an interesting piece of history and it would be a shame to lose it,” he said.

 

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