Gaither House renovation project moves forward

By Adam Armour/The Itawamba County Times

It seems like one of Fulton’s oldest homes may finally be getting a long overdue face lift.

Main Street’s Gaither House will receive new brickwork on its chimneys, a new brick sidewalk, weatherproofing and a new roof in the very near future. Work on these renovations is expected to begin within the coming months, but no firm date has been set. Once the work begins, it is expected to wrap up before the end of the year.

Last week, the Fulton Board of Aldermen voted to accept bids on exterior work on the city-owned property. The brickwork will be handled by Fulton’s Sammy Hill at a cost estimate of $8,200; stabilization of the structure, roofing and weatherproofing will cost approximately $33,550 and will be handled by Magnolia Construction.

The work is being paid by a grant from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, the Fulton Community Volunteers and the city itself. All things considered, the city will owe around $5,000 in matching grant funds to pay for the project.

According to Judge Sharion Aycock, member of the FCV and one of the leading advocates for the preservation of the historic home, the bids for the renovation work fell well below their original estimates. All in all, the group has accrued more than $70,000 in grant monies and donated funds. They originally estimated the cost to renovate the building’s exterior somewhere around $61,000. The actual cost, based on the bids, is closer to $42,000. When it comes to expenses, less is always better. Needless to say, the group is thrilled.

“We’re tremendously pleased at how low these bids have come in,” Aycock told the board, which seemed to agree. “We’re still well inside our grant funds.”

If work continues to come in under budget, the group hopes the board will allow them to use remaining funds to begin renovations of the building’s interior.

The Gaither House, also known as The Cedars, has been an object of community support since 2009. The property’s owner, Fulton United Methodist Church, needed to take down the building, which was in dire need of repair, to make room for a new parsonage. Any group willing to move the building was welcome to have it, however. A small volunteer group, then-called Preserving Itawamba County’s History (members of which later formed the Fulton Community Volunteers), requested city officials to claim the 150-year-old home. Group members, headed by Judge Sharion Aycock, offered to volunteer to raise money to have the structure moved and, eventually, renovated.

City officials agreed. In November of 2011, the Gaither House was moved approximately 200 yards west of its original location onto a small piece of property donated to the city by Fulton United Methodist Church. In 2012, the building was designated a historical landmark by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. Since then, progress has seemingly ground to a halt.

With things apparently moving forward, board members seemed pleased with the news of progress.

“I think this is a wonderful project,” said Alderman-at-large Kevin Nolan, filling in for absent mayor Paul Walker. “I think what you’ve done is great.”