Valdosta Daily Times

Local News

January 27, 2011

A historic tragedy: Valdosta’s oldest house burns

VALDOSTA — The wind-whipped flames reached into the early morning sky, as neighbors said one minute, the house was fine, and the next, it was fully engulfed.

Valdosta’s oldest house, the Roberts House, was acquired by the Valdosta Heritage Foundation in the 1990s, and has since been the focus of a detailed restoration project aided by many donors. The architect who has overseen the project, Glenn Gregory, stood on the sidewalk Wednesday morning and watched his work go up in flames.

“We’ve spent all these many years ... it’s like losing a family member,” Gregory said.

The house had burned once before, years ago, and Gregory said the attic was charred when the Foundation began restoring it. “But that fire was nothing compared to this.”

Valdosta Fire Chief J.D. Rice said the fire began on the back southside of the structure in an interior room, and that 29 mile-per-hour winds (official reading at the airport at the time of the 911 call) pushed the flames quickly through the house.

“One of my guys was on his way to work this morning and saw smoke and called it in. We were already on the truck headed this way when the 911 dispatcher called us,” said Rice. “The house was already fully engulfed by the time we got here.”

Harry Hamm and his wife, Delia, live next door to the Roberts House, and he said the house was fine when he left for work, but that his wife called him five minutes later, at a few minutes before 8 a.m., and flames had already taken over.

Other neighbors gathered at the scene, all saying that the time between first noticing the smoke and seeing the house engulfed was only a couple of minutes at best.

Gregory said the house has a fire alarm, which alerted 911 at the same time as the first call from a neighbor came in, and also an intruder alarm, “so there’s no reason to think someone did this. There wasn’t anyone in the house.”

Hamm requested that as much of the antique furniture be salvaged as possible, and after the fire had subsided, Rice allowed his firefighters to go into the house. They retrieved tables, chairs, and a divan, along with smaller items, but all were water logged. Hamm was confident they could be restored, as he and Mayor John Fretti assisted in carrying the furniture to Hamm’s lawn.

“This is a very emotional day. The history and the heritage that we’re losing,” Fretti said. “I certainly hope professionals can salvage what’s left of the house but the wind just really made fighting this fire very difficult.”

Rice said the two-alarm fire involved more than 40 firefighters and eight trucks, including two ladder trucks. The firefighters took shifts fighting the blaze from all angles around the house, including from above, as two in the ladder truck kept two hoses trained down on the house in an effort to knock all the flames out. Several hours later, the house was a shell of its former self.

Rice said it will take several days for investigators to determine the exact cause of the fire.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • election.jpg Black earns most votes in runoff

    State Rep. Ellis Black led the votes for state Senate District 8 Friday with seven of seven counties reporting certified results, according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • 140724-LAT1.jpg Little Actors Theatre ready for summer show

    Since 2004, the Little Actors Theatre has provided a place for children ages 6 to 19 to express themselves through acting.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • 072414-MichelleNunn003.jpeg Michelle Nunn visits Valdosta

    The day after learning that her Republican challenger would be David Perdue, Democratic U.S. Senate hopeful Michelle Nunn kicked off her Common Sense and Collaboration Tour Wednesday by meeting with business owners in Atlanta, Athens and Macon and continued her tour Thursday morning by visiting the David S. Waller Unit facility of the Boys and Girls Club of Valdosta.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • lunch.jpg Valdosta One Lunch feeds summer-hungry kids

    Hunger is a concept that many people associate with third-world countries, not their hometown. However, in Valdosta, hunger is real. To combat this hunger, a group of Valdostans have created Valdosta One Lunch, a program that distributes bagged meals to children in need.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • thumbs up.jpeg Moody squadron commander reaches milestone

    The 75th Fighter Squadron commander hit a career milestone July 17, by surpassing 3,000 flight hours in an A-10C Thunderbolt II.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • water.jpg New equipment expected to deal with Lowndes water violations

    The Lowndes County Commission’s recent approval of $1.6 million for water-treatment equipment is expected to counter a past series of water-quality violations within the county.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • 142314-Goodwill.jpg Goodwill hosts the Mexican Consulate

    Mexican citizens living in South Georgia have spent this week lining up at the Valdosta Goodwill to meet with the Mexican Consulate to obtain Mexican government issued identification.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • 140723-Tree001.jpg Chamber plants 100th centennial tree

    Founded in September 1912, the Valdosta-Lowndes County Chamber of Commerce is one of the largest chambers in the state.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • 140723 - Operation M#10E3C7.JPG Veterans First

    With Moody Air Force Base expecting to lose 300 to 400 personnel due to government cutbacks, area organizations are working with military personnel about to enter the civilian work force.

    July 24, 2014 2 Photos

  • Lowndes increases millage rate

    For the first time since 1999, the Lowndes County Commission voted Wednesday to increase the millage rate.

    July 24, 2014

Top News
Poll

School starts again in about two weeks. What do you think?

It's still summer. School starts too soon.
Seems like the right time to return.
Abolish summer recess. Make school year-round.
     View Results