By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great local journalism.
Razed building signals change
Office space to take its place
Members of the Webb and Welch families watch the building as it's torn down - photo by Jennifer Sami
Richard Webb had done everything from playing hide-and-go-seek to running his own business from the old building in downtown Cumming.

So it was a bittersweet moment when the structure on Tribble Gap Road was torn down recently to make room for a new office space.

A small crowd of Webb’s family and friends gathered to watch the destruction, which rekindled countless memories from their history.

Constructed in the mid-1940s, the building was first used as a cotton warehouse. Over the years, it has housed everything from lumber to an insurance company.

Webb said the building had become a member of the family. Watching its destruction was hard, but “it’s time for something else to be there.”

“We’re going to try to build something just to spur some activity,” he said. “The building has outlived its use. It has served countless generations of our family, but it has just run its course.”

The building belongs to Webb’s great grandfather, A.G. Thomas, co-founder of the city’s annual steam engine parade.

Richard Webb’s father Joel, known as “Chigger,” worked for multiple companies that called the building home.

“Cumming Development Company has been in there, Thomas and Webb Lumber Company has been in there, and I worked for all of them,” said Chigger Webb. “Part of me is in [that building], I was raised right there.

“But time rolls on, and things lose their usefulness, so you have to change. You either change or get run over.”

Richard Webb said the building was the first in the county to have an elevator.

“I used to ride on it when I was a kid,” he said. “Since I was a kid, I’d hitch a ride on a fork lift and I’d go down there and aggravate all the workers.”

Among those workers was Charles Welch, who moved his insurance agency into the building in 1969. His son, Chuck Welch Jr., said he still remembers visiting his father in the building.

“He’d let my brother and I sit in his chair and play at his desk. That was just the greatest thing at that time,” he said. “It’s part of my family’s history.”

The younger Welch, along with his mother Marie, wife Renee and son Charlie, watched as a crane pulled the remaining debris from the building.

“My mom got emotional,” he said. “The night before the July Fourth parade, that building was the headquarters for a party, so it’s just sad to see some of these things go away.

“But I’m used to change in Forsyth County, especially in the last 10 or 15 years. It just sort of drives home that things aren’t what they used to be.”

Though his family owns about 12 acres in the area, Richard Webb said the new office park would take up less than 2 acres. One more building will need to be taken down in the process, he said.

The second building, made of red brick, is dubbed the seed house. The cottonseed storage building likely will come down within the next week.

Richard Webb said the office building will be built to fit the city’s new mold. The three-story structure will be brick, matching the theme of city hall and the Cumming Station mixed-use development across the street.

Eventually, the office space will be joined by a larger component, said Richard Webb. That could either be more office space or possibly a mixed-use retail center.

“We’re playing it by ear right now,” he said.

The construction could be a risk, given the current economy, but the cost is lower than it has been in years for the same reason, he added. The goal is to be done within one year, though he conceded there’s a good chance the building could sit empty for as long as two or three years.

“We’re realistic. We understand it may sit there for a while before it’s actually opened but we’re willing to do that,” he said. “It was just time to tear it down and build something else.”

Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt said the project is “going to be a great asset to the city.”

Gravitt has been a vocal supporter of Richard Webb & Associates, specifically their restoration work, which includes the Brannon Hotel, the Redd House and the Cumming Playhouse.

Richard Webb said updating the city’s most recognizable landmarks is a way to preserve the past.

“They don’t teach kids [local] history in schools anymore,” he said. “It’s just a love of the community and it’s a challenge for us. It’s a lot harder to enhance something than to build it new.

“We were all born and raised here ... it means something to us.”

E-mail Jennifer Sami at