The Union Recorder

September 20, 2013

Historic Sanford House celebrates remarkable rescue

Kyle Collins
The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE — Sunday, Sept. 29 from 2 to 4 p.m. anyone can drop by the Brown-Stetson-Sanford House (BSSH) at 601 W. Hancock St. for the 47th anniversary celebration commemorating one unbelievable rescue and relocation of the historic 1825 home.

“Not only is this house an architectural gem,” said Dr. Amy Wright, executive director of Georgia’s Old Capital Museum and the BSSH. “It embodies 188 years of Milledgeville’s history. Each year we celebrate the foresight of those who worked to rescue and relocate this historic house and the ongoing commitment of the volunteers who have lovingly preserved and restored this house over the past 47 years.” 

The amazing success story of how members of The Old Capital Historical Society rallied the town to “Save the Sanford” and launched the preservation movement in Milledgeville is an achievement celebrated each year.

In 1966, the Sanford family sold the property to the Piggly Wiggly Grocery store chain, and the house was scheduled for demolition to make way for a parking lot. 

Members of the society swung into action to save and relocate the house. 

“The Old Capital Historical Society was working under tremendous pressure. Not only was the moving of a two and a half story house built in 1825 a monumental undertaking, but they also were under a time crunch because they had to have the house moved by June 1966 to make way for parking lot,” Wright said. 

The society found the perfect Hancock Street location to move the BSSH, which also required a structural transfer making way for the 1825 house.

“They had to get the lot prepared and raise $50,000 to do it in a matter of months,” Wright said. “The size and scope of this undertaking is mind-boggling. The credit goes to the members of that society that were able to galvanize the people in this community to raise the money, support the project, and to do it all in such a short time.”

On June 29, 1966, the Grand Old Lady traveled west to its modern day location.

The historic 1966 move was one of the last of its kind. The home's elliptical 10-levered staircase was a large reason for the intact four-block transfer.

Wright said Georgia Power cut the power lines along the route enabling the process.

English born architect John Marlor left his imprint around the city with the design of several Milledgeville federal-style homes. One of his most notable, built in 1825 for George T. Brown, was the BSSH that originally sat on North Wilkinson Street at the present day Baldwin County Courthouse site.

The historic home operated as the U.S. Hotel and later the Beecher-Brown Hotel, serving notable guests and legislators during Milledgeville's capital years. 

Daniel B. Stetson purchased the home in 1857 turning it into a family residence. His daughter Elizabeth married Judge Daniel B. Sanford, clerk of the Secession Convention, in 1868. 

From 1951 to 1966, the house gained national recognition as The Sanford House Restaurant. 

The Marlor-designed house tells the town's story from its early days as a frontier capital and has served distinguished guest like Rep. Carl Vinson and writer Flannery O'Connor. 

Georgia's Old Capital Museum Society currently owns and operates the house as a “Home Museum,” reflecting the years from 1857 to 1880 when the Stetson family lived in the house. 

Wright is proud of the volunteer work and grants that continually maintain the home.

“I'm appreciative of those who have donated money to see the house preserved,” Wright said.

The dining room now features a hand-painted canvas floor cloth commissioned thanks to Colonial Dames of America grants.

Next Sunday, Georgia's Old Capital Museum Society invites the public to hear the rest of the story through “Patterns Past and Present.”

A quilt display, photo exhibit, iPod tours and refreshments will be part of the celebration Sept. 29.

The iPod tour showcases the history of the BSSH told by those who made it, according to Wright. Families are welcome for afternoon punch, cake and history.

Georgia's Old Capital Museum continues to serve the community with educational programs and events that promote its mission to identify, preserve and communicate the historic and cultural heritage of Milledgeville and the Oconee River Basin area.

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