Bartow’s history preserved, recognized
By Kate Agel
There are towns strewn across the South that sit idly, crumbling and wasting away in their lost, albeit rich, histories. These are the towns that could not populate, industrialize or modernize into larger cities. These towns have yielded to time’s toll. These towns could not cling to more progressive neighbors in hopes of becoming a suburb. They are the ghost towns we pass through on the way to more exciting places, with seemingly ancient buildings disintegrating and slumping, store fronts empty, glass windows cracked. Their most historical buildings sit forgotten. Some of these towns have existed since the Revolutionary War, and the surrounding land conceals signs of the indigenous habitation that preceded them. With their physical demise, their history fades away.
Bartow, population approximately 300, a town that admittedly will never modernize into a giant metropolis, one that will never be a suburb to Atlanta, Savannah, Augusta or Macon, could easily fall victim to that category of defeated historical towns. However, Bartow and its people have grabbed their history and plan to never let it go.
Those living in or passing through Bartow in recent years might have noticed flurries of commotion and construction surrounding the railroad depot in the middle of Bartow’s downtown. The result of this activity is an example of the Bartow people’s iron-clad hold on their history. Inside the restored depot is a developing museum with the purpose to give tribute to the past 250 years of Bartow’s existence. The museum is set to be opened at some point in the fall of this year.
A visitor to the museum will first walk into a long, well-lighted room. On the opposite wall is a large bay window that reveals a railroad track. Bartow’s downtown structures are in view with their rare facades enhanced by punched-tin trimmings, and weathered dark red brick. Peering through the window, down the street, you can see the old bank building, distinguished by pink marble. On the wall under the window, a single panel was left untouched—paint flaked, surface aged—to show how far the depot has come in its restoration.
Decorating this first room are framed pictures, artifacts in glittering glass boxes, and a large rectangular mirror inscribed with the words that introduce the museum’s main theme: “Look back 250 years to different times, when things were done in different ways.”
In the mirror there is the reflection of a face, museum director Patsy Jordan’s, shining with a passion for each of those 250 years, watching earnestly to see the visitor’s reaction to the museum she has, with the help of many others, so meticulously organized.
Jordan gives credit to those who have helped with the hard work entailed to make the Bartow Museum a reality. She said that her husband and former Bartow Mayor, Hubert Jordan, and also presiding mayor, John Mancin, supervised the restoration of the Depot, which included obtaining a new roof. They each contributed to the necessary labor for the restoration projects. Charles Josey, of Atlanta, wrote the descriptions throughout the museum telling what each exhibit is and its importance in Bartow’s history. Clark Evans has done much of the framing and puts in his own efforts to ensure the museum’s success. Within the solid walls of the newly restored depot, it is easy to see the excitement that these contributors feel for their project. The product of their labor is an impressive one, for in the museum there are exhibits showing as much of Bartow’s history that can fit into the depot.
“If it happened, it will be in here,” Patsy Jordan said.
Native American artifacts dating back to 3000 B.C are included in the museum’s exhibits. The original bell that was rung at General Wood’s Fort will be in the museum, as well as civil war bullets and carved drinking gourds. There will be tributes to the talented and famous people Bartow has produced, such as Georgia senator Herschel Johnson and Willie Clay, a man who danced for Hitler. There are also exhibits for those talented products of Bartow who live today, such as sculptor Willie Tarver and the teenaged race car driver, Kim McKenzie.
In the freight room of the depot, the floor is still made out of the wood that was originally there, re-supported by newer beams. The freight room will contain various exhibits collectively called “Our Town” showing what life was like in Bartow in the early 1900’s, at the height of its population. Patsy Jordan said they hope to get a model of the first military jeep that Roy Evans, of Bartow, contributed to WWII.
“We don’t want it to be a stuffy museum,” said Jordan. She said there will be other hands-on exhibits that will interest younger generations, and the toy train that runs on a lofted track circling the entrance room embodies the museum’s playful quality.
Mayor Mancin said the plans for the museum began in the administration of his predecessor, Hubert Jordan.
“We got a grant that Anne Floyd kicked off for us,” said Jordan, describing a 4-5 year process of acquiring this grant. In 2003, the grant paid to put the new roof on the depot.
“I wrote a grant application to the Georgia Department of Community Affairs for a local development fund grant,” Regional Historic Preservation Planner, Anne Floyd, said.
“I think it was a 50/50 matching. The grant paid for half, and the city paid for the other half. It was the most wonderful grant for giving cities the ability to do projects that are nice to do and that improve the quality of life and provide public awareness of the historic resources,” she said.
“The depot was in bad shape before the grants,” Hubert said. “The depot still had the original roof by 2003. There was no sign of another roof being put on since the depot was built.”
The grant, besides furthering the ability for the city of Bartow to restore the depot, also led to an important recognition for the city of Bartow. Floyd said that after the grant was awarded, the city of Bartow chose a professional historic preservationist, John Kissane of Athens, to present a nomination to be on the National Register of Historic Places.
The National Register gives recognition to architecture with historical significance and opens the qualified historic buildings to a variety of tax incentives which are intended to keep a city’s history preserved through its buildings. On Jan. 13 of this year, Bartow’s nomination was approved.
“It’s a citywide National Register nomination instead of trying to do piecemeal individual buildings,” said Floyd. Any building within Bartow that is 50 years or older is on the register. Floyd clarified that these structures are usually determined by the most recent “period of significance.”
“My guess is going to be that the period of significance took it up at least through WWII—about 1955,” she said.
Houses that have been remodeled, even if they existed over 50 years ago, might be questionable.
“Buildings need to generally be recognized by the person who built it if they were to come back. However, you do have historical evolution. For example, some of the buildings had Victorian/ Greek revival. There is a huge difference between restoring and remodeling,” Floyd said.
“Bartow is one of those wonderful little towns with an intact commercial downtown and one of the more beautiful depots in our region. I’m so excited that the city has undertaken restoring the depot,” Floyd said.
The city of Bartow has made tremendous efforts to move forward, by looking backward. It is filled with people who appreciate the history their city has to offer, and are making strides in preserving it for posterity.
“We just want the history to come alive again,” said Patsy Jordan. Her husband Hubert agreed, and described how their urgency to preserve grows each time an older member of the community passes.
“History disappears every time someone dies, because they take such a wealth of knowledge with them,” he said.
Through Bartow’s appointment to the National Register of Historic Place, the restoration of the depot, and the museum that is to come, the city of Bartow is accomplishing their goal of revivifying history.
The Bartow Museum is a totally volunteer and non-profit project. All the money the museum receives is from grants and donations. Donations are graciously accepted by the museum, and are tax-deductible.
Drug and gang class offered to public
By Carol McLeod
Stapleton Chief of Police Tim Taylor will offer a drug and gang awareness class in the Stapleton City Hall Saturday, June 6.
The class will begin at 10 a.m. and is a two-hour course, Taylor said.
Refreshments will be served.
Stapleton Mayor Harold Smith mentioned the class during the city’s recent council meeting held Monday, May 11. Council members said this would be a class that would interest citizens.
The class is open to the public and there is no registration or fee.
Taylor said anyone age 6 or older is welcome to attend.
The class will help parents and other adults identify drugs and learn some of the ways drugs are hidden, he said.
“It can be in plain view and the parents won’t even know it,” the chief said.
Taylor said he has been offering classes like these in conjunction with Capt. Leonard Hart of the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office.
“He’s been doing it a lot longer than I have,” Taylor said. “We go to schools and churches and talk, and into the community.”
Taylor worked for the RCSO for 17 years, he said. During this time, he worked for Hart.
The chief said he held two classes the week before the council meeting and still had supplies and equipment in his car. He showed the equipment to a council member who suggested the city hold a class.
Taylor said he and the council member discussed it with the mayor.
“He agreed it was a good idea and put it before the council,” Taylor said. “They voted for it.”
Taylor said he is a firm believer in prevention and the class educates people about drugs and gangs.
He said parents need to know what to look for, adding that a lot of parents are unaware about what is going on with their children.
“Parents are naïve when it comes to their kids,” he said. “I hate to say it, but not all of our kids are angels.”
The chief said young people may not understand the consequences of using drugs.
“You can go to jail for residue. Cocaine residue is a felony,” he said. “People say they only had a little bit, but the law says you can’t have any.”
The drug of choice for teenagers up to about age 24 or 25 is pharmaceuticals, he said.
“A doctor recommends an operation or some other form of treatment people want a second opinion. But a drug dealer they don’t even know sells them drugs and they take it and put it into their bodies,” Taylor said.
“Here is this doctor who’s trying to save your life and you want a second opinion on that. Do you think a drug dealer cares what you put in your system? No. They’re mixing this dope, cooking this dope for you – they’re not scientists,” he said.
Wrens PD plans to crackdown on loitering
By Parish Howard
Wrens Police Chief David Hannah warns teenagers hanging out in the Denny Road area that numerous complaints have led him to beef up patrols and crack down on the loitering and street-side gatherings in the area.
“We are dedicating one officer to focus on the area around Denny Road, Pine Valley, Center Street and Green Meadows apartments,” Chief Hannah said. “We keep getting calls from residents in those areas complaining about teenagers hanging out, taking drugs, fighting and such. We recently took a .357 revolver from a teen over there who had stolen the weapon from a grandparent’s house. Just recently there was a robbery over there that we are still investigating.”
Chief Hannah said that with area schools closing for the summer this Friday, he is afraid the problems could get worse without an officer patroling the area more often.
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“We keep hearing about groups of youths in the roadway that will not get out of the way for vehicles,” Hannah said. “I’ve seen a school bus have to veer into the other lane because the kids won’t get out of the way.”
Hannah said he intends for his officers to strictly enforce the city’s 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew for all juveniles ages 16 and under. Any juvenile found out on the city’s streets within this time period will be stopped and his or her parents will receive a $100 fine, he said.
“Those groups who are in the highways and will not move may face charges as well,” Hannah added. “Citizens will be posting no trespassing signs and there could be charges if we catch people hanging out in their yards.”
Hannah said that Green Meadows Apartments has recently instituted its own curfew from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.
“They are asking residents to bring guests into the apartments,” he said. “They don’t want them hanging out in the parking lots and stairwells.”