Valdosta Daily Times

Local News

September 1, 2011

Roberts House rises from the ashes

Heritage Foundation begins restoring Valdosta’s oldest home

VALDOSTA — “Some people wished to tear it down,” says Tom Haller as he stands in the gutted shell of the Roberts House. “I would have agreed had it been any other house. But not this house.”

As the president of the Valdosta Heritage Foundation, Haller is overseeing the resurrection of the Roberts House, Valdosta’s oldest home. The Heritage Foundation spent years refurbishing the historic landmark. By last year, the organization had placed its offices in the Roberts House and had started leasing the house for weddings, receptions and other social occasions.

Haller took office as president on a Friday in January. By the next Wednesday, the Roberts House had been heavily damaged, some would say destroyed, by fire.

The Heritage Foundation debated the Roberts House’s fate. Would the group demolish the remains or build from the ashes? The group voted to rebuild.

Crews Engineering performed a structural assessment on what remained of the building. To the Heritage Foundation’s surprise, Crews found much of what remained could be saved.

Walking through the building, Haller points to wall frames, original flooring on the first and second floors that has been saved. A kitchen fireplace has been removed but, with proper support, the house’s other chimneys and fireplaces will be salvaged. Some walls remain intact and will stay. Doors, mantels, window frames, crown molding, wainscoting, lumber and other interior trim have been saved for use in the rebuild. Crews Engineering also serves as the construction management for the project.

Last week, a crew began demolition work on the Roberts House, saving what is salvageable, throwing away what is not. This demolition work is expected to be finished by the weekend, Haller says. Framing should begin next week.

In the rebuild’s Phase I, the Heritage Foundation plans to frame, replace the roof, doors, exterior walls, etc., so that the structure is safely sealed from the elements. There is no time frame on the project, but Haller estimates the first phase will be completed before year’s end.

“When the first phase is done, from the exterior, it will look like it did before the fire,” Haller says.

Then, the Heritage Foundation will begin the slow meticulous process of rebuilding the interior, everything from plumbing to wiring, to re-constructing the destroyed stair case, to replacing walls, etc.

Though his term lasts only a year, Haller has a good view of the reconstruction. He lives right across the street. Haller can watch the progress from his yard or porch much as the legend has J.T. Roberts stepping onto the Roberts’ house balcony to view the progress of Valdosta in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

In 1840, 20 years before there would be a Valdosta, a man named William E. Wisenbaker settled on a large tract of land in Lowndes County. In 1845, the Wisenbakers built their house.

At that time, Troupville was the Lowndes County seat. By the late 1850s, a railroad was being built from Savannah to Montgomery. Tracks would pass through Lowndes County but not through Troupville. Instead, the railroad would be four miles east of Troupville.

Lowndes County wished to move its county seat closer to the railroad. In 1859, Wisenbaker sold 125 acres of his property to the Lowndes County Commission. These 125 acres became Valdosta, which was incorporated Dec. 7, 1860.

“This may be the most important event in Lowndes history,” according to the Valdosta Heritage Foundation.

In 1863, Wisenbaker sold the house to J.W. Wells, a businessman and Valdosta mayor, for whom Wells Street is named.

In 1891, Wells sold the land to John Taylor Roberts. He “was a successful businessman and political leader serving in city government as councilman and mayor from 1892-1914, a prosperous period in the history of Valdosta,” according to the Heritage Foundation.

Though called the Roberts House, its full name is the Wisenbaker-Wells-Roberts House.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • Jim Zachary Mug shot.jpg Zachary named The Valdosta Daily Times’ editor

    Veteran newspaper editor Jim Zachary has assumed the editor’s chair at The Valdosta Daily Times.
    During the past two decades Zachary has been one of the most decorated community newspaper journalists in Georgia and Tennessee.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • 140728-griner001.jpg Griner takes oath

     Surrounded by family, friends, and fellow commissioners, Clay Griner took the oath of office Monday morning as the Lowndes County Super District 5 commissioner.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • 140728-man_hunt001.jpg Dump truck thieves sought

    Authorities continued searching for suspects Monday evening connected to a stolen dump truck involved in a chase with law-enforcement.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • City workers strike natural gas main

    A gas leak evacuated a neighborhood Monday when workers struck a natural gas main.

    July 29, 2014

  • education.jpg Desegregation status approved

    Forty-three years after an initial lawsuit was filed to force the system to desegregate, Valdosta City Schools has officially been approved for “unitary status.”

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • ARociewilliams_002.jpg Woman shares nearly a century of lessons

    With nearly 100 years of life under her belt, Ocie Viola Williams has plenty of advice to share with the world. Her top two pieces of advice: know the importance of education and don’t expect a teacher to raise your child for you. 

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • psst1 photo page copy.jpg PSST! finishes peachy season

    Peach State Summer Theatre concluded its 2014 season Sunday, a season which broke attendance records for the professional musical theatre company.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • DSC_2381.jpeg Award-winning young professionals share success secrets

    The Valdosta-Lowndes Chamber’s MetroOne Young Professionals hosted a panel discussion on Tuesday at the Hilton Garden Inn to highlight successful business practices.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • 140726_summerlibrary002.jpg Library celebrates end of summer reading program

    With the first day of school just around the corner, students are soaking in the last few weeks of summer vacation. The end of summer also means the end of the South Georgia Regional Library’s 2014 summer reading program.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • artseason1 copy.jpg A sneak peek at some area arts organizations’ 2014-15 seasons

    Beethoven. Tennessee Williams. Non-stop art. Two versions of “The Wizard of Oz.” The 2014-15 arts season is coming.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

Top News
Poll

Do you agree with the millage rate increases?

Yes. We need to maintain services
No. Services should have been cut.
     View Results