A gentle wind rustles the palm trees in the yard while butterflies flutter among the azaleas.
Once a bustling center of government, the massive 5,200 square foot structure on a quiet lot facing Blackshear’s city park has no sign to indicate it is one of the most historically significant properties in Pierce County.
The elegant, empty Park Street Georgian-style home features massive columns and is now a stately home with six bedrooms, a library and an upstairs sitting room.
Its quiet status today is far from the time when horses and buggies regularly hitched out front and our community’s judges, lawyers and business leaders filed through its doors to conduct the business of the county.
Built in 1875, this now-lonely building was the Pierce County Courthouse until 1902. It was built to replace the original county courthouse which burned in a giant inferno, taking many of the county’s records with it.
The late Dean Broome, author of History of Pierce County Georgia, references this building in his book.
“The new courthouse…was considered to be a fine and spacious structure at the time,” Broome writes.
Constructed mostly with locally grown heart-pine, the 1875 courthouse sat in the town square and faced the city park. It had two upstairs courtrooms, complete with judges’ chambers and a jury room. County offices were on the first floor.
The newness and glitter wore off, however, as boots wore the pine planks and too-few spittoons served the tobacco-chewing gentlemen. Still struggling to gain a foothold in the swampland economy, Pierce County’s courthouse fell into disrepair.
An 1899 edition of The Blackshear Times describes the building as “rotten.” “In the center of the floor the underpinning has given way and is really dangerous.”
The once-handsome buiding was comdemned in 1902 and sold at public auction for $976 to the Donaldson family who moved the courthouse away from the street, repaired it and converted the building into their home in 1903.
The property has since seen several owners including the Robert Belvin family, Mr. and Mrs. Charlie Davis and its current owners, World War II veteran, Eugene (Gene) Baker and his wife, Margaret, now of Lawrenceville.
Baker says all it took was one look at the stately manor to convince his wife to give up their home in the Atlanta suburbs and move south.
“I made the mistake of bringing my wife a picture of the house in 1986,” recalls Baker. “She fell in love with it and decided then that’s where we would retire.”
The couple closed on the house in 1988 and happily relocated from north Georgia where they enjoyed more than a decade in the home. Eventually, they began work to remove some of the “modern” remodeling and restore the old courthouse to its former glory, replacing, repairing and refinishing the pine used to build it.
The restorations came to a halt, however, when Margaret broke her hip. The Bakers eventually moved back to north Georgia to be closer to their son.
“We didn’t leave the house willingly,” says Gene. “That’s for sure. We didn’t have a choice.”
The Bakers are now selling the home they love so dearly, but settling on a price has not been easy. The original asking price was $249,900, but the price has dropped.
“I haven’t set a hard price on it, but it’d probably be more like $175,000,” says Gene.
And so, the house sits today. Quiet. Elegant. Stately. Waiting for the next caretaker to help it once again be a showplace and a living part of the third century it has seen.
“We want to sell it to someone who appreciates the historic signifigance of the house,” says Baker.
Many in the community will, no doubt, feel the same.
Read these stories and more in the June 11 edition of The Blackshear Times
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