By Adam Armour/The Itawamba County Times
If the Cates-Gaither house were able, it would surely shift its floorboards into a splintery smile, its walls reverberating with a wooden “thank you.”
The 150-year-old Fulton home has certainly found its fair share of admirers. More than 20 arrived at a special meeting last week to show their support for restoring and moving one of Fulton’s oldest homes, now standing empty on Main Street. Calling themselves the Preserving Itawamba County’s Heritage Committee, the group hopes to transport the Cates-Gaither home to a new location within the coming months.
Tossing around ideas, the group named several potential locations to consider moving the oldest section of the home, an approximate 36×28-foot space. The group is currently pursuing several possible locations throughout downtown Fulton.
“I’d love to see it in downtown Fulton, in a more walkable area,” said Fultonian Joel Ewing. He later commented on the importance of preserving the old structure. “This home is a part of our history and therefore a part of who we are. It’s about more than just saving a worthy old structure. This beautiful home will help us shape our future by reminding us of our past.”
Members of the group are currently branching out, scouting locations and making new contacts in an effort to garner support to save the old house. They will regroup next Tuesday to further discuss their plans.
The need to either move or lose the house is a result of the necessary growth of its owner, Fulton United Methodist Church. Willed to the church by its last owner, Opal Gaither, in hopes that the land on which it sits would be used to build a parsonage, the house stands as both a link to the past and a barrier to the future. It’s a difficult position in which the church finds itself.
So in an effort to be a good steward, the church decided to seek community interest in preserving the house, offering to give it away to anyone interested in having it relocated.
Arranged by church member and Fulton resident Sharion Aycock, the June 23 meeting was meant to determine whether or not the community was interested in saving the house in the first place. The question was answered fairly quickly.
“If you’re waiting for someone to say he’s interested in saving the house, I’m interested. I’d hate to see that house torn down,” Ewing piped during the meeting. The crowd, the members of which ran the gamut from lifetime Fulton residents to impassioned history buffs, were in adamant agreement.
The plan, it was agreed, is to move the house to a new location in hopes of eventually renovating the structure into its original condition and using its as a historical site. The group is currently looking to have the structure designated as a historical landmark, which would help raise money for the eventual renovations.
Of course, moving a 150-year-old house will be a delicate, likely expensive project, estimated at more than $10,000 and possibly as much as $20,000, so fundrasing is a short-term goal for the group.
“The initial costs of moving this house are going to be a community issue,” said Jerry Maxcy, who represented Fulton United Methodist Church that night. “It’s going to have to start in the room and move outward.”
All members agreed that remodeling the home and opening it to the public would help bring about a sense of pride in Itawamba County’s heritage.
The Preserving Itawamba County’s Heritage Committee plans to meet again on Tuesday, July 7, beginning at 6 p.m. at the ICDC in Fulton. Everyone is invited to attend.
Adam Armour can be reached at 862-3141, by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting his blog at itawamba360.com.