On September 8, 2021, Cobb Landmarks Executive Director Trevor Beemon spoke with students in the University of West Georgia’s Public History and Museum Studies Programs. Trevor was invited to participate in a panel discussion on the subject of “directing a museum through a climate of change.” Trevor was joined on the panel by Sheffield Hale, CEO of the Atlanta History Center, and Leslie Gordon, Executive Director of the William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum. It was a great honor for Trevor to be asked to participate on this panel among some of Atlanta’s most respected cultural institutions.
MARIETTA, GA, June 16, 2021 - Cobb Landmarks & Historical Society dedicated a new sculpture at the William Root House on June 12, 2021. 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.
Situated on the Root House property is 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 roughly 1,200, meaning that almost 45% of Marietta’s total population was enslaved at that time.
To honor and remember the the more than 1,200 enslaved people living in Marietta prior to the end of the Civil War, Cobb Landmarks partnered with Kennesaw State University’s (KSU) School of Art and Design to create a new 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 helped inform sculptors as they crafted the full-size sculpture. The unveiling, which attracted a large crowd, included remarks by Executive Director Trevor Beemon, Living History Interpreter Misha Harp, Master Craftsman Page Burch, and a poetry reading by Sprayberry High School student Courtney Brown.
ABOUT THE WILLIAM ROOT HOUSE: Owned and operated by Cobb Landmarks & Historical Society, the William Root House is one of the oldest homes remaining in the Atlanta area. Interactive touchscreens and comprehensive exhibits tell visitors about life in antebellum Georgia. Home to the Root family from 1845 to 1886, the house and property have been meticulously restored to their c. 1860 appearance.
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.
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 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.
Depending on the number of family members using the privy, the waste or "night soil" would have to be removed from the vault two or three times per year. This would have never been done during the day. "Night men" would have been called to come after dark. The night men used long-handled dippers to collect the waste under the cover of darkness. The night soil was then taken away to be discarded or sold as fertilizer to nearby farmers. In the city of Marietta, privies were required to be "cleaned at least once every ten days, and be sprinkled with lime." During inspection, if the privy was not "free from filth and stench," the owner could be fined or even jailed.