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House of history
City-restored home will open to public May 2
Brannon House 2 es
The newly renovated Brannon-Heard House. - photo by Emily Saunders

* The house will open to the public for the first time May 2 and 3 for the Sawnee Artists Association’s “Art in Historic Cumming” show.

* A rug show by the Cumming-Forsyth Rug Hookers is planned for May 8, 9 and 10.

Photos sought

Cumming officials are looking for historic photographs from the Brannon-Heard House to decorate the home. In particular, they seek photos of the original owners, Charlie and Amanda Brannon. Anyone with old photos of the house can contact Linda Heard at (770) 781-2010.



Anyone who last saw the Brannon-Heard House a few years ago would not believe it today.

The once dilapidated structure seemed destined for demolition. But thanks to some funding and time by the city of Cumming, stepping across the threshold into the circa 1900 home is now a bit like walking back in time.

The solid pine floors gleam, the board ceiling’s new paint is white as driven snow and black iron trim around the fireplaces nearly sparkles.

“The house looks better now than it did when we moved into it when I was a kid,” said the house’s previous owner, Herman Heard.

Heard said he and his family lived there from 1945 until he turned 15 in 1955. He sold the house, which by his own admission had fallen into grave disrepair, to the city of Cumming in 2006.

“It was falling in and we [his mother and sister, both now deceased, co-owned the house] just couldn’t afford to fix it up,” he said.

Mayor H. Ford Gravitt said he and council wanted to save the house due to its historical significance.

“We had in our sales tax for historic preservation of old buildings in the city of Cumming and this was one of the old buildings we targeted,” he said. “It’s adjacent to the old schoolhouse, the Cumming Playhouse, and it had a lot of history, so we thought it was very important to preserve it.”

Renovations on the house and its 1/3 acre lot, which was bought for $500,000, have been “off and on for about two-and-a-half years,” Gravitt said.

“The renovations still aren’t all done,” he said. “So I don’t have the total cost for all the renovations since we’re still working on it.”

While some work is ongoing, the house will open to the public for the first time May 2 and 3 for the Sawnee Artists Association’s “Art in Historic Cumming” show. A rug show by the Cumming-Forsyth Rug Hookers is planned for May 8, 9 and 10.

Cumming Playhouse director Linda Heard, who has been organizing the two events, said she is ready for the public to be able to enjoy the historic home.

“I feel like we saved something of great value,” she said. “People love it and will continue to it and appreciate it.”

One of those people is Louise Castleberry, the main receptionist at Cumming City Hall.

“When they [city leaders] said they were fixing it up, I told them I just hope I lived long enough to see it fixed up,” said Castleberry, who has worked for the city for 32 years. “I was proud the city took it over. I was afraid it would just fall in.”

Castleberry and her husband Marcus, who passed away in April 2004, lived in an apartment in the house as newlyweds from 1955 to 1956.

“We lived in the front apartment on the left. We had a bedroom, a kitchen and a bathroom,” she said. “There were three apartments there then and two other families lived there.”

Castleberry said has she only fond memories from the house.

“We were just a newly married, happy couple,” she said. “We enjoyed the house. We would come in when we were both tired after working all day and go sit out on the front porch.

“There’s a lot of memories there.”

Built around 1905 by Charlie Brannon and first known as the Brannon Hotel, the house saw many different boarders during the 40 years before Herman Heard’s father, Cliff, bought it.

Among them, according to documents from the Forsyth County Historical Society, were traveling salesmen, men who worked in town and teachers at the Cumming school.

At one point, shortly before the Heards puchased the home, a dentist made his office there.

Herman Heard said his favorite memory was of finding a gold tooth under the floorboards in the area that had been the dentist’s office.

“I still have that tooth today,” he said with a laugh.

Gravitt has some memories of the house too.

“I remember the Heard family living there and running the antique shop that was in there,” Gravitt said. “I even bought some antiques there.”

Cliff Heard ran the antique shop for some 30 years, according to his son. After the store closed, the house sat unoccupied for 10 years until its salvation came in 2006.

But now that the piece of Cumming history has been saved, Herman Heard said he’s pleased.

“The sale [to the city] benefitted everybody,” he said. “There’s a lot of people here with a lot of memories of that house.”

E-mail Crystal Ledford at