November 18, 2012

Blunt House close to getting large grant

Rachel Brown

— Maintaining historic structures can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars over time and require large amounts of effort and financial commitment from preservation enthusiasts.

Yet the Blunt House — the second oldest house in Dalton and home to its first mayor — might not face any of those concerns for decades to come if generous donors can help raise just $18,000 more. The only catch is that the $18,000 has to arrive by Nov. 30.

Blunt House chairwoman Joanne Lewis said an anonymous person has offered to donate $100,000 to the upkeep of the 1848 structure at 506 S. Thornton Ave. but only if someone or several someones provide $100,000 to match it. Lewis said the committee that oversees the house has raised about $82,000 so far in cash and commitments, but the donor was very specific about the acceptable amount.

“The donor must have $100,000 from us by the end of November and he, or whoever it is, will match it,” Lewis said. “He will not match $80,000, he will not match $99,000. It has to be $100,000.”

Fundraising began in August, and there are now 12 days left. When and if all the money is raised, the total amount of $200,000 would be invested and expected to generate between $8,000 and $10,000 each year, she said.

“It would go on forever (generating money) unless there was some horrible, horrible crash,” Lewis said.

Lewis said $35,000 was raised for maintenance on the house in 2010 and in 2011, but it wasn’t enough to complete all the work that needed to be done. Only part of the inside of the house was painted since the money ran out, she said, and there is still work that needs to be done on the grounds, the plumbing, the walls and numerous other areas.

The house was home to Dalton’s first mayor and postmaster, Ainsworth Emery Blunt, who also helped found Dalton’s First Presbyterian Church. Students, visitors and other passersby tour the home and its changing galleries and historical displays at times throughout the year. It includes numerous pieces of period furniture, clothing, kitchen utensils and other household items.

If the fundraising campaign doesn’t generate the full $100,000, the money can still be put to use. Lewis said contributors can call the historical society and request their check be returned, or they can allow the donation to be kept for the Blunt House. The funds would be placed into a money market account and used as needed, but they wouldn’t be expected to last as long, Lewis said.

“If we got this money (from the anonymous donor) we would never need any more money for capital improvements,” she said. “This would help the entire historical society by having this property safe as far as any improvements that were needed.”

Donations can be mailed to the Community Foundation of Northwest Georgia, P.O. Box 942, Dalton, GA 30722-0942. To donate, make checks payable to the Whitfield-Murray Historical Society and write “Blunt House” on the check. Checks that don’t have a specific item on them will go into the historical society’s general fund and not toward fundraising for the house.

Questions can be directed to Lewis at (706) 278-9760 or the historical society at (706) 278-0217.