LaFayette’s Marsh House Board of Directors unveils strategic plan for pre-war museum

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Ahead of the 200th anniversary of Marsh House, a pre-war home in LaFayette, Georgia, the house museum’s board of trustees sets out a strategic plan to preserve the historic cultural site and educate the community about its importance.

Built in 1836, the Marsh Family Home tells the story of Walker County, from the frontier days to the Civil War to the Industrial Age.

“If you understand the history of this family, you understand all of American history,” said David Boyle, chairman of the house museum board and president of the Walker County Historical Society.

An example of the popular Greek Revival style of architecture before the Civil War, the house was built on Cherokee territory just before the tribe’s withdrawal in 1838. The Marsh House holds the history of the plantation economy from the South, as Spencer Marsh brought slaves with him when he settled in the area, in addition to the early days of the textile industry in North Georgia. Marsh, a son-in-law and a third partner opened the first cotton mill in North Georgia in Trion around 1845 – still operating as Mount Vernon Mills – and his descendants opened both mills in LaFayette, Boyle said.

[READ MORE: North Georgia author’s new book focuses on area’s historic mill towns]

Photo gallery

Marsh-Warthen House in LaFayette, Georgia

Boyle’s involvement in the preservation of the house began around 40 years ago, when he first discussed the transformation of the house into a museum with members of the Marsh family while he was president. from the Walker County Historical Society in 1980. Efforts to preserve the Marsh House gained momentum around 2001 after it was sold to owners outside the Marsh-Warthen family who spent about eight to ten years trying unsuccessfully to use the house for various business ventures.

The historical society set up a task force to raise money in the community to buy it, then held it for a year until Walker County passed a special-purpose sales tax that included the purchase of the house.

The county still owns the property of Marsh House and pays some costs, such as utilities, and the museum is managed by a board of directors appointed by the historical society.

The museum has been closed for the past year, with tours available only by appointment, Boyle said. All tours are given by volunteer guides, as the museum has no paid staff.

The strategic plan includes the addition over the next three years of paid part-time staff to open the museum to the public two days a week and expand the educational scope.

Over the next 10 to 12 years, the plan is to hire a director to keep the museum open three days a week and further expand educational outreach programs.

The plan also includes smaller and less expensive projects, such as the digitization of research done by students who have received scholarships from the Historical Society, which is expected to take place this year.

Another project slated for 2021 is the installation of window coverings to protect the $ 180,000 of period furniture in the house from UV damage.

The next step is to clean and maintain the on-site, border-era hut that was built in Walker County while it was still Indian territory. It was moved to the property of Marsh House and rebuilt to serve as an example of living quarters for Native Americans, settlers and slaves at different times.

To attract more people to the museum, the council plans to resume hosting rotating exhibits at the home, in addition to adding signage at LaFayette directing visitors to the museum and historic downtown.

Other plans include expanding awareness, such as an annual historical drama featuring the Marsh family and their descendants, as well as a traveling outreach program to help educate the community about the importance of the house through sketches. historical and cultural objects.

Over the next 10 to 15 years, the board hopes to build an endowment of $ 1 million to help fund the plan through estate donations to the 501 (c) (3) organization.

John Logan, director of grants and public transportation for Walker County, said he plans to seek matching grants through the historic preservation division of the Georgia Department of Community Affairs to help fund the projects.

In order to apply for these grants, the Walker County Historic Preservation Commission – which was dissolved in 2018 – had to be reinstated first, which the Walker County Commission did last month.

“It’s an amazing little time capsule,” Logan said of Marsh House. “We are losing them, and we have to take care of them.”

The museum is always looking for volunteers to help with their efforts, Boyle said. Applications for volunteers are available on the Marsh House website at marshhouseoflafayette.org.

The Marsh House is located at 308 N. Main St. in LaFayette. To schedule a visit, call the museum at 706-638-5187.

Contact Emily Crisman at [email protected] or 423-757-6508.


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