The following speech was written by Marietta resident Douglas M. Frey and was delivered to the Marietta City Council on September 13, 2017:
My name is Douglas Frey and I live on Trammell Street, which is within walking distance of here. I’m in Councilman Johnny Walker’s ward. I moved here with my wife from East Cobb almost twenty years ago because of a house, an historic one, and it’s that house that keeps us here. That and Marietta Square and Kennesaw Mountain and the historic houses on Church and Cherokee Streets, and those on Kennesaw and Whitlock Avenues.
But it’s more than just pretty houses. It’s the people who built and lived in them, and their stories that intrigue us. It was this curiosity that led me to write a book on Marietta’s architectural history – The Gem City of Georgia.
I think you’d agree that it is our history that makes us unique. People want to move to Marietta to be surrounded by our lovely historic homes, even if they don’t live in one themselves. Where else can you eat Sushi in an antebellum warehouse? Panini sandwiches in a former bank? Or croissants from one of the first drugstores in the city?
We’re surrounded by history and this is what gives us comfort and creates the incredible sense of community that we can never take for granted. Take away any of those things I just mentioned and the reason for us to stay diminishes.
That is why I appreciate this occasion to speak with you about an opportunity that could be as everlasting and bountiful as the acquisition of Glover Park has been to our city. I’m asking you to carefully and sincerely consider saving the historic home known as Oakton through its purchase.
Oakton is older than the William Root House, the Kennesaw House, the Archibald Howell House, Tranquilla, or Brumby Hall. It was built not long after the founding of our city, so its history begins with the removal of the Cherokee Indians, and spans “The War Between the States,” where it was occupied by Confederate and Union soldiers. When Marietta began to recover from the war, Oakton attracted coastal elites, who remodeled the home into its current style and used it as a summer retreat for many decades. And Oakton has been lived in and lovingly cared for by the same family for nearly 80 years. It is Marietta’s oldest home and twenty years from today, will celebrate its 200th birthday.
Two hundred years is a big deal. Oakton is arguably the city’s most historic house and we are in peril of losing it. And if that sad prospect were not enough, the home sits on a treasure trove of ancient oak trees and a boxwood garden that was planted in the 1870s, a garden still flourishing and one that was so admired it was one of only three Marietta gardens featured in the 1933 book, “Garden History of Georgia.” Of the 160 Georgia gardens featured in the book, Oakton is one of only a handful that survives. Those irreplaceable gardens would likely be lost, as well.
Now, I have to tell you that I am uncomfortable being here. I normally don’t believe governments should be involved in projects that could be served by the private sector. But we see time and time again that sometimes, our government has to play an active role in things that we are reluctant to get involved in, but we know would not get done were it not to lead the charge.
We see city action in the removing of urban blight on Franklin Gateway and are seeing its revival as we speak. And we see our city preserving our heritage through the declaration of local historic districts and the county actively identifying land to preserve for parks and greenspace.
So, as hesitant as I am standing before you, I know in my heart that you believe as I do, that that there are some things that must be fought for so as not to be discarded and forgotten. Marietta continues to grow in population and prosperity. It’s all around us, from the constant expansion of Kennestone Hospital to never-ending improvements on the Square. And one of the major factors responsible for that growth is the historic nature of the city, mainly manifested in its old neighborhoods and houses. Lose one and others are sure to follow.
As you perform your due diligence, I want to remind you that the city has successfully cared for Brumby Hall and our first public library, the Sarah Freeman Clarke Library on Church Street. And in our midst is the old Federal Post Office building that now serves our community as a vibrant art museum.
These examples may cost the taxpayers money but the value they add to the city cannot be measured. Or can it? In 2013, Cobb County tourism supported 16,210 jobs, generated $1.4 billion in direct tourism spending, and over $30 million in local tax revenue.
We may also look to our sister city of Smyrna and its purchase of the Taylor–Brawner House. That purchase has made such a positive impact on the city that Smyrna officials are currently restoring another historic property nearby for its citizens, the picturesque Reed House on Atlanta Road. In Kennesaw, we see the success of Smith-Gilbert Gardens with a historic home that dates to the 1880s. But perhaps the best example of city stewardship of antebellum properties is found in Roswell, which has received national recognition for its efforts and made Roswell a magnet for tourism. Maybe it’s time to begin a new chapter in the history of Oakton and expand its place in our collective memory.
I only ask that as you entertain this idea, please imagine the pleasure you’ve had throughout the years driving by Oakton and glancing up through the maze of oaks to the beautiful house on the hill, nestled at the base of Kennesaw Mountain. And, now, think of it gone and ten to twenty houses in its place.
That is the reality that confronts us. A vital component of the legacy of The Gem City of Georgia is in your hands. Please help our community save Oakton.
Photo by Jim DiVitale
Oakton, a 5.5-acre estate that includes Marietta’s oldest surviving house, is at risk of being lost to demolition and redevelopment. The Kennesaw Avenue property has been for sale for over 2 years, and the owners have not yet found a buyer who plans to preserve the historic property. The house was built around 1838 by Judge David Irwin, and it served as the headquarters for Confederate Major General William W. Loring during the battle of Kennesaw Mountain in 1864. The home has spent most of its 179-year history in the stewardship of the Wilder and Goodman families.
Oakton is one of the most historic estates in all of Georgia. A masterful combination of architectural styles, the five-bay stucco facade features octagonal bay windows, ornamented porch posts, a dramatic entry with a decorative glass transom and sidelights, and deep gabled dormers. The landscape includes boxwood gardens that date from the 1870s and outbuildings that have been meticulously restored and maintained. But Oakton has no protection from demolition or redevelopment because it is not located in a local historic district.
Preservation of any city’s most historic buildings is an investment in both the past and the future, protecting real places that represent a community’s history so that they may be shared by future generations. Cobb Landmarks & Historical Society, Inc. (Cobb Landmarks) has been preserving, protecting, and promoting the William Root House Museum & Garden for over 20 years, and the City’s other museums also do a fine job sharing Marietta’s rich history. Oakton’s distinguished history and faithful preservation up to the present moment make it a local landmark worth saving.
The time to save Oakton as a valuable link between Marietta’s past and future is now, before a contract with a real estate developer puts the house in irreversible jeopardy. Cobb Landmarks encourages the City of Marietta to acquire the Oakton estate as a local historic landmark, joining Brumby Hall & Gardens, the Sarah Freeman Clarke Library, and the City Water Works buildings under City ownership and care. The estate could be used as a community center, house museum and garden, or some other type of public facility. While there is time to determine its long-term public use, the future of Oakton needs to be secured now, before it is too late. Cobb Landmarks calls on the City of Marietta to take this important step.
This unique collection of beers will be introduced to the public during a special beer tasting at the Root House on September 15, 2017.
MARIETTA, GA, August 10, 2017 - The oldest home in downtown Marietta, the William Root House is one of the only wood frame structures in town to survive the Civil War. The home was owned by Marietta's first apothecary, William Root. William would have grown many medicinal plants for his pharmacy in his garden, including hops, which would have been used as an herbal medicine to assist with sleeplessness and anxiety.
The William Root House Museum & Garden is excited to announce a collection of beers crafted with hops, fruit, and herbs harvested directly from the historic Root House Garden. Created by Red Hare Brewing Company, this new collection of beers will be introduced to the public during a special beer tasting at the Root House on September 15th. The beer collection includes:
Centennial IPA - 6.7% ABV - Brewed with Centennial and Simcoe hops, this IPA is a clean west coast IPA with pungent piney and slightly citrus aromas. Munich and wheat malts balance out the bitterness and hints of floral. Wet hops from the Root House Garden were harvested and put into the kettle within thirty minutes for a late hop flavor with a big hoppy punch.
Lemon Balm Lager - 5.25% ABV - Brewed as a light German Helles, this refreshing lager has hints of biscuity malts and big notes of lemon citrus stemming from the fresh lemon balm from the Root House Garden. The finish is clean with subtle hints of mint.
Fig Porter - 6.9% ABV - Brewed with Caramel Munich Malts, Midnight Wheat, Chocolate, and Flaked Oats, this beer is dark and rich. Dark fruit flavors of raisin and fig from the Root House Garden blend with the heavy malt bill and are balanced with the earthy Willamette hops used in this beer.
Sea Holly Saison - 6.4% ABV - A monster saison hybrid yeast was used to ferment this beer to create fruity and slightly phenolic aromas. Pilsen, Wheat, Munich, and Vienna malts were used in conjunction with Hallertau and Saaz hops to balance this funk monster beer with very slight hints of bubblegum. Fresh Sea Holly from the Root House Garden keeps it grounded with notes of thistle, green leaf, and earth.
WHAT: Root House Craft Beer Tasting
WHEN: Friday, September 15, 2017 6:00pm - 9:00pm
WHERE: William Root House Museum & Garden; 80 N Marietta Parkway NW, Marietta, GA 30060
TICKETS: Admission is $30 per person. Attendees will receive six 6 oz. drink tickets. Finger foods provided by Johnnie MacCracken's, Taqueria Tsunami, Stockyard Burgers, and Two Birds Taphouse will be available. Must be 21 or older to sample beers. IDs will be checked at the door. The first 75 tickets sold will receive a free souvenir glass. Tickets available online at roothousemuseum.com/beer.
INFORMATION: 770-426-4982; roothousemuseum.com
ABOUT THE WILLIAM ROOT HOUSE MUSEUM & GARDEN: Owned and operated by Cobb Landmarks & Historical Society, the William Root House Museum & Garden offers an authentic look at life for a middle-class Georgia family during the 1860s. The simple frame house is more typical of its time and place than the grand plantations and columned mansions people typically imagine when they think of the Old South.
ABOUT RED HARE BREWING COMPANY: Red Hare Brewing Company is an independent microbrewery located in the heart of Marietta, Georgia. In August 2011, Red Hare started selling craft beer throughout the state of Georgia and in 2012 became the first craft brewery in Georgia to can their beer. Red Hare Brewing Company was named 4th best brewery in the 2016 U.S. Open Beer Championship, accepting five medals. Red Hare offers four year-round beers, in addition to seasonal and craft soda brands, and is currently distributed across the South.
Visitors will learn how Victorian southerners transformed their homes in order to keep cool during summer months.
WHAT: Dressed for Summer
WHEN: On display through September 29, 2017
WHERE: William Root House Museum & Garden; 80 N Marietta Parkway NW, Marietta, GA 30060
INFORMATION: 770-426-4982; http://www.roothousemuseum.com/
ABOUT THE WILLIAM ROOT HOUSE MUSEUM & GARDEN: Owned and operated by Cobb Landmarks & Historical Society, the William Root House Museum & Garden offers an authentic look at life for a middle class Georgia family during the 1860s. The simple frame house is more typical of its time and place than the grand plantations and columned mansions people typically imagine when they think of the Old South.
Visitors to the museum will learn the story of the house, the Root family, and life in antebellum and Civil War Georgia. Using electronic touchscreens, visitors can analyze historic records, family photos, archaeological information, and more. These primary resources help explain how the Root family lived and how the house has evolved over time.
The William Root House Museum & Garden is open Wednesday through Saturday, 11am - 4pm. Admission is $7 for adults (18+) and $6 for seniors (65+), students, and military.
For more information about the Root House, call 770-426-4982 or visit http://www.roothousemuseum.com.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION: Union Major General William T. Sherman invaded Georgia in May 1864. Moving into Georgia from the vicinity of Chattanooga, Tennessee, the Union Army was on a mission to occupy Atlanta, and would follow the Western and Atlantic Railroad all the way down. As the Union Army approached Marietta, William Root made plans for his family to refugee south. The Root family gathered their most treasured belongings and made their way to Washington, Georgia. The Root family would remain in Washington through the end of the war and would not return to Marietta until 1865.
The Union Army occupied Marietta on Sunday, July 3, 1864. While most of Marietta’s citizens had refugeed south, some had stayed behind. A northern news correspondent observed that “probably not more than twenty houses are occupied.” As reported in the Lamoille Newsdealer on August 10, 1864, “throngs of soldiers are now roaming over the half destroyed gardens, or strolling through the mutilated mansions, thumbing on the ruined piano and lolling on the sofas…” Used as a supply hub, the city was occupied by Union troops until November 13, 1864. That evening Union Major General William T. Sherman was returning to Marietta from a visit to the nearby village of Allatoona. When he arrived he found the Cobb County Courthouse ablaze, with fires spreading to other structures around the Square.
This program is included with the cost of regular museum admission and free for Cobb Landmarks members. Special thanks to the Sons Union Veterans, Sons Confederate Veterans, and the 30th Ohio Vol. Inf. Regiment for their support of this program.
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
In the 1850s, Hannah and William Root shared their home with their children and extended family. Hannah Root’s father, Leonard Simpson, lived with the family and passed away on October 11, 1856. During the month of October, visitors to the William Root House will see the home decorated for mourning as it would have been at the time of Leonard Simpson's death. Curtains will be drawn, and rooms will be adorned with black crepe and ribbons. Special tours will teach visitors about 1850s mourning practices and superstitions about death.
WHAT: Mourning in the 1850s
WHEN: The Root House Museum is open Wed.-Sat., 11am-4pm. Special night tours will be offered every Fri. and Sat. night in October from 7pm-10pm, and also Halloween night, Oct. 31.
WHERE: William Root House Museum and Garden; 80 N Marietta Parkway, Marietta, GA 30064
INFORMATION: 770-426-4982; roothousemuseum.com/mourning
BACKGROUND INFORMATION: During the 1850s, Hannah and William Root shared their home with their children and extended family. Hannah Root’s father, Leonard Simpson, lived with the family and passed away on October 11, 1856. In the 1850s, only those invited would attend a funeral. Special funeral invitations were made with a black border; the width of the border would indicate how closely related the guest was to the deceased.
Antebellum parlors were used for guests, family gatherings, and special occasions such as weddings and funerals. During a funeral, the coffin would have been kept in the parlor with the feet of the body facing towards the door. Many of the items in the parlor would have been draped in a black fabric. The fabric, called crepe, was commonly used for funerals because it was inexpensive and had a matte, lusterless surface that was deemed appropriately solemn for mourning. It was also customary to have flowers for a wake. Lilies were the most commonly used flower at this time because, in the “language of flowers,” lilies symbolize purity.
In the dining room, some of the furnishings would have been moved around according to need. During a funeral, furniture would have been moved to the side to make room for chairs for the ceremony. Funeral guests would have been seated across the hall from the parlor so they could view the ceremony through the doorways without being too close to the family and the body. They would be permitted to see the body one at a time after the ceremony. A traditional food for funerals was funeral biscuits. These were shortbread cookies made especially for funerals. They would have an image imprinted on the cookie, such as a heart, cherub, winged head, hourglass, or skull. It was customary to serve the funeral biscuits with beer or ale, and they were usually dipped in the ale before being eaten.
ABOUT THE WILLIAM ROOT HOUSE MUSEUM AND GARDEN:
Owned and operated by Cobb Landmarks and Historical Society, the William Root House Museum and Garden offers an authentic look at life for a middle class Georgia family in 1850s. The simple frame house is more typical of its time and place than the grand plantations and columned mansions people typically imagine when they think of the Old South.
Visitors to the museum will learn the story of the house, the Root family, and life in antebellum and Civil War Georgia. Tours include opportunities for visitors to actually handle historic artifacts and to test their skills with various 19th century games. Using electronic tablets, visitors can analyze historic records, family photos, archaeological information, and more. These primary resources help explain how the Root family lived, and how the house has evolved over time.
For information about the Root House, hours of operation and admission call 770-426-4982 or visit http://www.roothousemuseum.com/.