By Adam Armour/The Itawamba County Times
In a complete reversal of the natural way of things, one of Itawamba County’s oldest homes has taken one step further from the grave.
The Fulton Board of Aldermen voted during their most recent meeting to accept the 150-year-old Gaither House on Main Street as official city property. The home was donated to the city by owner Fulton United Methodist Church, along with a small piece on land on which it can be placed.
The move will facilitate the non-profit group Preserving Itawamba County’s History’s (PICH) efforts to secure grant money necessary to restore the house. According to PICH head Joel Ewing, the group was having trouble obtaining state and federal aid because the building was owned by a church, which cannot apply for grant money.
“We are very, very pleased to see that the city accepted our proposal and accepted the Gaither House,” Ewing said, referring to an early-April PICH presentation to the board of aldermen asking that the city accept the house as its property. At the time, the board seemed reluctant to accept the property without mulling over the proposal and tabled the decision until last week.
Ewing said the decision represents a step forward for the group’s efforts.
“We’re very pleased that the church decided to donate the home to the city and that the city was willing to accept it. This will facilitate our ability to move forward,” Ewing said.
During the group’s initial presentation to the board, Ewing told aldermen that the group had raised approximately half of the $20,000 needed to safely move the structure approximately 300 feet from its currently location next to Fulton United Methodist Church. He said several potentially major donors were waiting to see if the city would accept the house before committing any money to the cause.
By becoming city property, the house also falls under Fulton’s blanket insurance policy, which is one less thing for PICH to try to fund. Ewing told the board that the group was unable to pay for both insurance on the home and the expenses associated with moving the structure.
The church, which has been working hand-in-hand with PICH to save the Gaither House, needs the space on which the home currently sits for future expansion. According to Ewing, the church has been very cooperative and gracious in allowing the group to try and save the home.
Although the house is now officially owned by the city, Ewing said responsibility for its upkeep falls entirely upon the shoulders of the PICH. There is a plan in place to have the home moved and renovated to a presentable condition within three years’ time. He said should PICH fail to raise enough money to maintain and improve the structure that ownership would revert back to the church, and it would be demolished at no cost to the city.
If all goes well, however, after moving the house, the group plans to improve the basic structure and make it look pleasing. The building will then sit until the group has enough money to transform it into something viewable by the public.
Ewing encourages those on the fence about donating to PICH’s efforts to consider what would be lost if the home is destroyed.
“It’s just a significant gem for our community that needs to be saved. We’ve lost so many of our historic homes,” Ewing said.
For more information about the historic Gaither House or to make a donation, visit the PICH website at http://itawambaheritage.blogspot.com.
Adam Armour can be reached at 862-3141, by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting his blog at itawamba360.com.