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June 5, 2013

Hamilton House faces more preservation work

Dalton’s oldest brick house is showing its age.

“This old mortar isn’t solid like modern mortar,” said Bruce Davies, chairman of the Whitfield-Murray Historical Society’s Hamilton House Committee. “You can see there where it has just washed away between the bricks. And the bricks are crumbling in places. They aren’t as strong as modern bricks.”

The Hamilton House was built in 1840 by John Hamilton, a civil engineer who came to Dalton to assist with the construction of the Western & Atlantic Railroad.

The problems center on the rear wall of the house. The house had to be closed to the public for three years after society officials discovered that wall was bowing out. Eventually, the City Council kicked in $186,000 of its federal community development block grant funds to help the historical society install a porch on the wall that acts as an external brace. The house reopened in 2010.

Davies, a descendent of Hamilton, said the current masonry problems aren’t a danger to the public. But he says society officials want to address them within the next 12 months.

“That wall might hold up for years, but we know there’s a problem. So we don’t need to wait,” he said.

Davies said the problem seems to be that water wicking up from the ground has washed out the mortar.

Davies said historical society officials have been talking to architects and masons and have decided that constructing an interior wall to take the weight of the house off the rear wall would be the best solution. He said they don’t yet have an estimate for how much that would cost. But he said they will be looking for grants to help fund the work.

The house has played a central role in Dalton history. During the Civil War, the house was used as a hospital by both the Confederate and Union armies. Confederate Gen. Joseph H. Lewis used the property as the headquarters for his Orphan Brigade during the winter of 1863.

The family sold the property to the stockholders of the nearby Crown Cotton Mill in 1884, and the house served as the home of the mill’s superintendent for the next century. In 1984, the house was converted into the corporate offices of Crown America, and in 1997, the historical society purchased it.

The house now contains several collections owned by the historical society, including memorabilia from Dalton poet Robert Loveman, Civil War artifacts and material from Dalton’s chenille industry.

 

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