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.”
When Cobb Landmarks learned that BAMM Real Estate was going to demolish the house and redevelop the site, the historical society’s Executive Director, Trevor Beemon, requested the opportunity to document the structure so that a photographic and written record of the building, its history, and its architectural features could be made.
While surveying the structure, members of the Cobb Landmarks Preservation Committee noted that some elements of the house were in good condition and worth saving and that some of these materials might be used in the construction of the new interpretive center being developed at the William Root House campus in downtown Marietta. They requested access to these items for preservation and re-use in the Root House project. BAMM agreed and gave Cobb Landmarks permission to identify and remove elements of historic importance from the Fowler House. "We were thrilled to work with Cobb Landmarks to preserve parts of the Fowler house,” said Michael Sunshine, Managing Partner of BAMM. “Preserving the history of Marietta is extremely important to us and as we begin development of multiple properties in Marietta, we look forward to our continued partnership with Cobb Landmarks and other local businesses."
Cobb Landmarks partnered with Marietta Reclamation to salvage the materials. Items saved from the house, including doors, windows, shutters, lighting fixtures, and hardware, will be incorporated into Cobb Landmarks’ new interpretive center and headquarters. Cobb Landmarks is pleased to be able to give pieces of the historic Fowler House a second life.
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The Manning Cabin was moved from Powder Springs to the Root House property on September 20, 2018. The chimney, roof, and porch were disassembled for the move. The cabin will be temporarily placed in the Root House parking lot until the new foundation is ready. Since the move, the cabin has been cleared of debris and a new roof has been installed. Soon, the foundation of the interpretive center will be poured and the cabin will be moved one last time and placed on new concrete piers.
The 875 sq. ft. cabin will be used as an exhibit space and as an event and lecture space. A large addition to the cabin will contain executive offices, a research library and conference room, public restrooms, and a small catering kitchen. Cobb Landmarks also plans to make the space available to rent for private events and meetings.
The property occupied by the William Root House is leased to Cobb Landmarks from the City of Marietta. In 2016, the Marietta City Council approved a request by Cobb Landmarks to add .082 acres adjacent to the Root House to the lease. This additional land, along with modifications to the existing property, will enable the cabin and smokehouse to be relocated to the Root House property. The addition of these structures will allow Cobb Landmarks to begin hosting temporary and traveling exhibitions, lectures, and large-scale educational programs, which will expand our reach in the community.
An early estimate for construction is $685,000. Cobb Landmarks does not plan to incur any debt related to this project. Funds raised exceeding the construction cost will be set aside for an endowment for the operation and perpetual care of the cabin and additional structures. Construction should be completed by the end of 2019.
Historic Acworth smokehouse to be reconstructed at the William Root House Museum & Garden in Marietta
For years, this historic smokehouse sat unnoticed behind a home on Northside Drive in downtown Acworth. The home, which had been vacant for some time, was purchased by a local developer and was slated for demolition. Cobb Landmarks & Historical Society, Inc. (CLHS), immediately reached out to the developer to see if there was any interest in preserving the smokehouse. The developer had no plans to preserve the smokehouse but was interested in donating it to CLHS.
Because of the poor condition of the smokehouse, it was determined that dismantling the building would be safer than moving it in one piece. The bricks were removed and are now being stored. Insurance records from the 19th century indicate that a smokehouse used to stand behind the 1845 William Root House in Marietta. As part of The Next Generation capital expansion project, CLHS plans to use the bricks to reconstruct a smokehouse at the Root House. The smokehouse will be a wonderful addition to the Root House Museum, and will give visitors a better understanding of daily life in antebellum Marietta.
Learn more about The Next Generation project
Learn more about the William Root House Museum & Garden