The 1840s William Root House, one of the oldest homes in the Atlanta area, was originally the home of early Cobb County settlers Hannah and William Root. Threatened by demolition in the 1980s, the home was moved in 1990 by Cobb Landmarks & Historical Society and renovated for use as a house museum depicting middle class life in Antebellum Georgia. Since rescuing and restoring the house 30 years ago, Cobb Landmarks has been successful in attracting thousands of visitors to the museum every year.
When Trevor Beemon became Executive Director of the Museum in 2014, he introduced a variety of new programs and events designed to help reinvigorate the site. Between 2013 and 2016, visitation numbers increased more than 300 percent. However, a lack of space limited the types of programs and number of visitors the museum was able to accommodate. By the end of 2016, it was clear: In order to better serve visitors, the Root House campus had to be enlarged.
At that same time, Cobb Landmarks was approached by the Manning family about donating an 1830s log cabin to the organization. Originally located on Macland Road in Cobb County, the log cabin was occupied by the Manning family during the 1860s. Still owned by Manning family descendants in 2018, the family wished that the cabin could be preserved for future generations. With that in mind, the family generously donated the cabin to Cobb Landmarks, requiring that it be removed from their property. A plan to relocate the cabin to the Root House began to form, but the organization needed more land.
The property occupied by the William Root House is leased to Cobb Landmarks, a private nonprofit, from the City of Marietta. On November 21, 2016, Cobb Landmarks presented a request to the City of Marietta for an additional .082 acres located immediately adjacent to the Root House. The space would be occupied by the Manning Cabin, with a modern addition to the cabin containing a much-needed Visitor Center with event, exhibit, and office space inside. The request was approved and finalized at a City Council Meeting on December 14, 2016. With additional land secured, plans moved forward. In 2017, Cobb Landmarks launched a capital campaign for the project titled The Next Generation.
For The Next Generation concept plan, Cobb Landmarks turned to the award-winning architectural firm Historical Concepts. Historical Concepts’ work has been featured in national publications, including Garden & Gun and Architectural Digest. In addition to designing custom homes for clients across the country and multiple Idea Houses for Southern Living and Coastal Living, the firm has also provided master planning for redevelopment in historic communities like Senoia, Fairburn, and Fayetteville, Georgia. “As an architectural firm that studies historic precedent to inform our designs, we were intrigued by this vision to bridge past, present, and future,” said Historic Concepts’ Ryan Yurcaba about The Next Generation project. “We are honored to work with the forward-thinking team at Cobb Landmarks to ensure a purposeful future for an increasingly rare trace of Cobb County’s architectural vernacular heritage.”
The Manning Cabin was moved to the William Root House campus in Marietta in September 2018. Funds needed for the project came to Cobb Landmarks in the form of donations from private individuals, Cobb Landmarks members, and a variety of foundations and sponsors. Plans for the new structure were completed by Olah Design Group, and Fortress Builders oversaw construction. Freedman Engineering Group provided engineering services.
In addition to the new Visitor Center, The Next Generation project included remodeling and expanding the exhibits at the Root House, with a new exhibit space dedicated to examining the lives of Marietta’s enslaved population. Interactive touchscreen displays were also installed in each room of the house. The touchscreens give visitors the opportunity to examine family photos and documents, and to watch educational videos produced exclusively for the Root House. “The new exhibits at the Root House are fascinating,” said Marietta City Councilwoman Michelle Cooper Kelly. “It’s interactive. It’s a state-of-the-art platform. You can actually come in and learn about the Root family and the slaves that lived on the property,” said Kelly.
On April 28th, the Georgia Association of Museums recognized the Root House Museum for excellence in exhibition theory, planning, and implementation. The recognition specifically commends the use of touchscreen technology and also recognized the interpretation of the slave experience on the property. “This award validates the important work Cobb Landmarks is doing at the Root House,” said Trevor Beemon. “It also reassures us that the use of technology in a historic house setting can be a successful way to provide information to contemporary visitors who have come to expect this type of presentation in a museum.”
“Cobb Landmarks has really upped its game, and we are lucky to have such a terrific resource in our community,” said Dr. Jennifer Dickey, Coordinator of Public History and Associate Professor of History at Kennesaw State University. “I love taking my public history students to visit the Root House because I consider it to be an excellent model of how to interpret a historic house. The touch screens provide supplemental information that help visitors understand what they are seeing, and the addition of the cabin has made possible the interpretation of the enslaved workers who lived with and worked for the Root family.”
Cobb Landmarks & Historical Society is seeking funds for a new project at the William Root House. The Root House was built circa 1845 for Hannah and William Root, early settlers of Marietta. Born in Philadelphia in 1815, William moved to Marietta in August 1839 to open a drug/mercantile store on the Marietta Square. During the 1990s, the Root House was meticulously restored to its original appearance and is now operated by Cobb Landmarks as a historic house museum.
A new garden project at the Root House is intended to transform the courtyard adjacent to the newly completed museum Visitor Center. “The Visitor Center is the first thing people see when they arrive at the museum. We want to make an impactful first impression, and also give the space purpose,” said Executive Director Trevor Beemon.
The courtyard is situated between the Root House and the circa 1830s Manning Family Cabin. Cobb Landmarks uses the cabin to help tell the stories of the enslaved individuals who labored at the Root House property and who would have lived in a similar cabin. The 1860 census shows that Marietta had 297 households and a population of approximately 2,600. Of the 297 households, 137 (46%) held slaves. According to the 1860 slave schedule (census), Marietta's slave population in 1860 was 1,175, meaning that almost 45% of Marietta’s total population was enslaved at that time.
To honor and remember the many enslaved people who lived in Marietta prior to the end of the Civil War whose names were not recorded and are now lost to time, Cobb Landmarks is partnering with Kennesaw State University’s (KSU) School of Art and Design to create a garden sculpture. For the sculpture, KSU students used state-of-the-art scanning technology to 3D scan living history interpreter Misha Harp. This scan was used to print a maquette of the sculpture using a 3D printer, which will help inform sculptors as they craft the full-size sculpture in the future. Other improvements to the courtyard include new plants, garden lights, and outdoor seating for museum guests.
Cobb Landmarks hopes to raise $10,000 for this project. Funds raised beyond that amount will be used to expand the scope of the project to include the addition of on-site interpretive signage and other site improvements. Readers are encouraged to visit RootHouseMuseum.com/Garden to donate.
Marietta’s Black community worked to establish the Lemon Street Elementary School in 1894. Marietta Industrial High School was completed in 1929 and was the city’s first Black high school. The school was later renamed Lemon Street High School. Ten years after the landmark 1954 Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education ruled that racial segregation of children in public schools was unconstitutional, Marietta High School still had no Black students. That changed in 1964 when a group of Marietta citizens sent a letter to Marietta Schools Superintendent Henry Kemp asking him to allow Daphne Delk and Treville Grady to enroll in classes at Marietta High School. The school board accepted the request and Delk and Grady became the first Black students to attend Marietta High School on August 27, 1964. Following integration, the Marietta Board of Education closed the Lemon Street High School and Lemon Street Grammar School. The c. 1930 Lemon Street High School building was demolished in 1967. The c. 1950 Lemon Street Grammar School building was used for storage by the Board of Education.
In 2019, Cobb Landmarks met with Marietta City Schools to discuss the uncertain future of the Lemon Street Grammar School building. Cobb Landmarks emphasized the importance of saving the historic structure. After a series of meetings, plans were made to return the Lemon Street Grammar School to its original use: educating Marietta’s students. Marietta City Schools worked to preserve the building’s exterior and key architectural features while rehabilitating the interior, creating a modern learning environment for students. A small exhibition inside the school tells the story of the once-segregated school system, while outdoor interpretive panels focus on the history of the surrounding community.
We sat down with Chuck Gardner, Chief Operations Officer at Marietta City Schools, to discuss the rehabilitation of the Lemon Street Grammar School building.
Why do you think it was important to reuse the building?
“The history of Lemon Street is much deeper than the 1951 structure that we saved. This campus dates back to the 1890s and is an incredible part of the Marietta City Schools story.”
Was there a particular moment during the renovation that stood out to you?
“The most powerful moments in the renovation have been walking alumni around and hearing them tell stories about their school experiences in the 1950s. One former student pointed out the corner where she would warm up her teacher’s lunch for her on the radiator. These stories can’t be forgotten.”
How were you able to preserve the historic integrity of the structure while still bringing it up to modern codes?
“Our approach to the construction project was to do the demolition/abatement months before design was complete. This allowed us to see the structure. During demolition we saved a lot of the old glazed block which is a non-standard size these days. The demolition was done by hand so as to not damage the block. We used the salvaged block for infill so that it would not look different. We were also able to design new windows with muntins to match the old ones.”
What part of the project are you most proud of?
“I’m proud of the fact that we have created beautiful modern spaces which are suitable for learning, while honoring the history in such a way that when alumni visit they still recognize their former school.”
Cobb Landmarks was proud to advocate for the rehabilitation of this important landmark. It's been a pleasure to see Marietta City Schools revive the building for classroom use.
Cobb Landmarks & Historical Society is celebrating Black History Month with a new Black History Walking Tour of downtown Marietta. The tour will take participants on a journey through time, from the founding of Marietta through the Civil Rights Movement. "While this walking tour presents a number of important Black heritage sites in Marietta, it's just a start. We hope people will be inspired to go learn more after the tour," said Executive Director Trevor Beemon. The walking tour is approximately 1.5 miles long and should take about one hour to complete.
The tour features many significant sites in Marietta, including Zion Baptist Church, one of the earliest Black congregations and churches in the state of Georgia. The tour also features the newly rehabilitated Lemon Street Grammar School, and includes stories about the desegregation of public schools in Marietta. "My hope is that tour-goers will walk away with a better understanding of the events, people, and places from Marietta’s past that formed the city we live in today," said Beemon.
To take the tour, visit cobblandmarks.com/blackhistory.
As part of a new educational initiative at the William Root House Museum & Garden, Cobb Landmarks is partnering with historians, local businesses owners, and “celebrities” for a series of entertaining and educational videos about everyday life during the 1860s. The videos, which are viewable both online and on touchscreens located throughout the Root House campus, show modern-day people trying their hand at 19th century tasks.
The first video in the series was filmed in the cookhouse at the Root House. For the video, Cobb Landmarks reached out to Pie Bar to see if they would be interested in baking a pie in our 1850s cast iron cookstove. Lauren Bolden, who owns Pie Bar along with her husband, agreed to take part in the project. Lauren’s enthusiasm came through during every step of the process. During filming, Lauren discussed the ingredients and the recipe, while adding humor here and there. Finally, the pie went into the oven. The final result? A pie that “does not reflect the quality of pies we serve at Pie Bar,” as Lauren put it.
Another video challenges Brielle Gaines, CEO & Co-Founder of Tiny Bubbles Tea Bar, and Mariah Rutledge, Manager, to correctly set a formal afternoon tea using instructions culled from Mrs. Crowen's American Lady's Cookery Book, published in the 1860s. Another video features local entertainers taste-testing popular 19th century dishes including foods like dandelion greens, beef tongue stew, and vinegar pie - all prepared by local food historian Clarissa Clifton and her associates.
It is our hope that these and future videos will provide a bit of levity and entertainment to educators and students - all while sneaking in important information about the time period and about how the spaces inside the Root House would have been used during the 1850s and 60s. If you would like to contribute to the production of future videos, you may make a donation to the Cobb Landmarks Operating Fund online here.
The Cobb Landmarks Historic Preservation Committee has announced an addition to their Preservation Priorities list: Acworth Christian Church. Reevaluated each year, the list identifies Cobb County historic sites facing real threats like demolition, neglect, lack of maintenance, or development.
Acworth Christian Church was founded in 1858. The original structure was located on Mitchell Hill near downtown Acworth. The present building was erected in 1875 to replace the original structure that was destroyed during the Civil War. Modifications made to the building have significantly altered its appearance, and a lack of maintenance over the years has led to deterioration of the structural integrity of the building.
Cobb Landmarks will partner with the Save Acworth History Foundation to find ways to stabilize the structure and find a long-term solution for its future.
In 2018, Marietta’s c. 1845 Martin Slaughter House was at risk of being demolished for a residential development project. After a rewarding discussion between Cobb Landmarks and the property owner, Traton Homes, plans for the site were revised so that the house could remain (totally awesome of Traton)! But what would happen to the house next was another question. That’s when Marsha Durham stepped in with the dream of making the Slaughter House her home.
“This project has been such an amazing act of love and a journey that I truly treasure,” said Marsha of the restoration project. “The contractors that I worked with on this project were great and executed every vision I had to make this house into our home.” They are Chris Bailey and Nick Brannon of C & B Construction and Chris Michaels of Residential Property Preservation. “My daughters and I look forward to honoring the history of the house while making many beautiful memories.”
Marsha takes us on a tour of the home:
“The walkway was constructed of old brick that was dug up from the back yard. These original bricks were covered with layers of dirt, debris, and overgrowth. My daughters and I dug them up on Mother’s Day, knowing that we wanted to use them in a special way. They make a perfect inviting entrance to the home.”
“Walking into the home we wanted an inviting entrance. The wood floors in the kitchen and family room were hidden treasures buried beneath layers of carpet. They are beautiful 6-inch-wide heart pine planks which were restored in a natural finish to bring out their original beauty. The hearth in the entrance is reclaimed wood using a support beam from underneath the structure of the home. The details in the wood, including nail holes, add such character to the feature wall.”
“This was a great nook that we were able to create to become a home office. The walls are a reverse pine to bring out a rough appearance. The desk was constructed from two original support beams that were underneath the home. I think it’s a beautiful way to use original pieces of the structure and preserve more of its history.”
“These medicine bottles were found when digging out brick in the back yard of the home. They are hand-blown glass and I believe that these treasures may have been from Dr. Martin Slaughter’s time living in this beautiful home.”
“I wanted the kitchen to be a big part of our home. We want people to be able to enjoy the history of this home, and what better way than to gather together over a meal? The original 9-over-9 windows were an important part of the history of this home, and we wanted to be able to feature them in any way we could. We decided to do built-in benches below the side windows so that we could keep the integrity of the windows. The benches are a great addition, allowing friends to gather and enjoy the heart of the home.”
Last year Cobb Landmarks met with Marietta City Schools to discuss the uncertain future of the c. 1950 Lemon Street Grammar School. Cobb Landmarks expressed the importance of maintaining the historic structure. “The question was whether we could afford to save the building while being good stewards of taxpayer dollars,” said Grant Rivera, Superintendent of Marietta City Schools. “We are pleased to say that, after careful study, we will be able to do both.”
Parrish Construction Group successfully performed the demolition portion of the Lemon Street Project during December 2019. On June 16th the school board approved a renovation budget, allowing the renovation to begin. Plans call for replacing all doors and windows and installing new plumbing and electrical systems, fire sprinklers and alarm systems, security systems and the technology required for the school system to operate the building. Crews will also install new asphalt, sidewalk, fencing and landscaping. The building is expected to open to students by the end of 2020.
The William Root House Museum & Gardens reopened on May 27th. Currently, guests begin their visit by checking in at the Visitor Center located inside the Manning Family Cabin. Credit card payment is encouraged as a touchless payment option. Upon checking in, each guest is given a stylus pen. The stylus pen is used to operate the interactive touchscreens located throughout the museum. Guests are free to explore the museum campus at their own leisure, however, they must follow posted signs and practice social distancing, especially when entering and exiting exhibit spaces. No more than ten guests are permitted in the museum at one time, and all stylus pens must be returned to the Visitor Center for sanitizing at the end their visit. The health and safety of our staff and guests is very important to us, and we hope the steps we have taken will help museum guests feel comfortable during their visit.
Visit RootHouseMuseum.com/Visit to learn more about what to expect during your visit to the museum.
#GivingTuesdayNow is a global day of giving in support of nonprofit organizations impacted by COVID-19.
Dear CLHS Friends,
As a public health precaution in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic, Cobb Landmarks has made the difficult decision to close the William Root House Museum temporarily, until further notice. Closing the museum and the gift shop and cancelling scheduled group tours and events mean a loss of critically important revenue. As a private nonprofit, every dollar counts and every lost dollar hurts.
When these challenging times are behind us, our desire is to make the William Root House campus a vibrant and active part of the community once again. We are looking forward to introducing new initiatives at the museum, including special family days, homeschool days, and toddler programs, all designed to inspire and engage the next generation of history-lovers.
Your support will help us overcome the economic challenges brought on by the recent pandemic - challenges that might otherwise prevent these exciting new programs from coming to fruition. May we look to you, our community, for a special contribution to Cobb Landmarks to help us weather this difficult time?
Thank you for your support!
Cobb Landmarks & Historical Society, Inc.
William Root House Museum & Garden