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Preserving a piece of history
The last thing Taylor Davis and the Historic Brunswick Foundation want to see is one of the few homes built before 1885 still standing in Brunswick get torn down or removed from its original site.

So as president of the nonprofit foundation that seeks to preserve the city's historic structures, Davis is concerned the Brunswick-Golden Isles Chamber of Commerce's desire to one day build a new office on its property at 4 Glynn Ave., will lead to the loss of the Dart Family house that served as the chamber's headquarters from 1984 until last year, when it moved to 1505 Richmond St. The chamber bought the property from the Dart Family in 1983.

Building a new office there, as the chamber plans to do one day, would mean the 1877 home overlooking Lanier Oak on the city's gateway corridor along U.S. 17 would at best be moved somewhere else, or at worst destroyed, Davis said.

Chamber President Woody Woodside said the organization is hoping to move the house after the chamber made a decision to keep the property.

"That is an investment made by this organization's leadership 30 years ago," Woodside said, adding that the organization spent 13 years working on the house to preserve it.

He said there is no time line for when the chamber might move back and said it will not likely be in the near future. But doing so would require moving the two-story Dart house, which he said can be done if the right person comes along and agrees to move it but not destroy it. Woodside added that selling the property as is would be difficult because new federal flood insurance regulations would mean a huge jump in the premium, making new construction there a more viable option.

"There are no plans to raze it or tear it down right now," Woodside said.

He said the Dart Family was given a chance to acquire the property after the chamber moved last year, but was unable to do so. The chamber also put out a proposal offering the house to any of its members who were willing to bear the cost of moving it, Woodside said.

But the Historic Brunswick Foundation, which is a member of the chamber, wants the house to remain where it was built.

"Once the house is moved from its original location, all historical context is lost," Davis said.

He and the foundation has met with Woodside about buying the entire property from the chamber to make it a center for cultural heritage tourism, an industry he said is growing.

The foundation also submitted a petition to the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation seeking help from its revolving fund for endangered properties. In turn, the trust presented an offer to the chamber, Davis said.

"They had a buyer who was willing to pay for a 90-day option. Initially, the chamber agreed, but at the last minute, backed out," Davis said.

Now, with the chamber intending to keep the property for future construction, Davis is concerned the house will be allowed to fall into disrepair to the point that it will be razed, despite Woodside's assertion that demolition is not the chamber's intention.

"There are many possibilities for repurposing this structure, such as a historic Brunswick Welcome Center with a museum representing this area's historical significance, while also serving as a field-school for historic pres ervation, in collaboration with the University of Georgia's College of Environment and Design," said Davis, who has a master's degree in historic preservation from the University of Georgia.

Maintaining buildings like the Dart house is imperative to preserving Brunswick's historical significance, Davis said.

"We have lost so many homes from that era," he said. "This is the home of the son of one of (the city's) founding fathers."

The house was built by William Robert Dart, son of Urbanus Dart, who was a large land owner that donated property for several historic downtown churches in the post-American Civil War era in Brunswick.

SBlt Reporter Michael Hall writes about public safety, environment and other local topics. Contact him at mhall@thebrunswicknews.com, on Facebook or at 265-8320, ext. 320.



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