Leila Case: Open a door into the past to walk in history

Published 11:49 am Monday, February 12, 2018

First let’s just say wine and chocolate are a good mix; add women simultaneously consuming the two and it turns into something fun.
I wasn’t able to attend Americus Main Street’s Wine and Chocolate Walk downtown last Saturday afternoon at varied sites, but according to Jessica Childers at The Kinnebrew Co., one of the stops on the walk, the event was positive and drew hundreds of attendees throughout the afternoon.
Why didn’t I attend? It was a sellout before I could even buy a ticket. Perhaps next time.
We opted instead to attend the first of a series of lectures at Andersonville National Historic Site planned this year. Evan Kutzler, Ph.D., assistant history professor at Georgia Southwestern State University, gave an interesting and educational talk about the experience of African Americans in Southwest Georgia and Andersonville Prison before, during, and after the Civil War that was followed by a very thought-provoking and lively discussion. The attendees had paid attention and raised many questions. I didn’t recognize anyone from Americus — a number of people from Oglethorpe and Montezuma attended though. And I met the lecturer’s charming wife, Amanda.
Kutzler is an inveterate researcher, and in the short time he’s been in Sumter County he has become very knowledgeable about our local history. He has written several books, the most recent, “Prison Pens,” in collaboration with Timothy Williams, concerns the memoir of a captured Confederate soldier in northern Virginia and the letters he exchanged with his fiancée during the Civil War. I look forward to reading it.  And he is hard at work on another book.
However, he is taking time from the classroom and research to present the first in the series of quarterly lectures that Sumter Historic Trust has planned. Kutzler’s talk is Thursday, March 22 at the Lee Council House and begins at 6:30 p.m. for a social period and 7 p.m. for the program “Seizing Freedom in Sumter County Georgia.” Everyone welcome to attend at no cost. I hope to see you there.
Look for some familiar faces on HGTV’s “Reclaiming a House” when it airs in March! I sure hope you set your VCR if you won’t be at home. I plan to be right there up close and personal in front of the TV. The airing was initially scheduled for today, Feb. 10, but has since been postponed. The date will be published here in the T-R as soon as we know it.
The show is about the remarkable restoration of the house at 402 W. College St. last summer that was produced and directed by HQTV based in Los Angeles. I can hardly wait to see it although I did “walk through” the house just after the film crew wrapped it all up. The turnaround from a fire-damaged debacle is awesome. The finished work is splendid, returning the house into a beautiful home with 21st century amenities that include some interior architectural redesigns that will be revealed on today’s show.
According to former state Sen. George Hooks and Charles Crisp, local realtor, the go-to guys when you want facts about local history, the two-story structure is a classic example of the unique antebellum architecture in the Americus historic district. It was built in the 1850s as a one-story Greek Revival cottage. In the 1870s it was remodeled into a Victorian architectural design with the addition of the second floor, wide front porch and balcony. According Hooks, Ernest Linwood Bell purchased the house and he and his wife, Elimer Buchanan Bell, turned it into a “show place” to reflect the times. Bell added Corinthian columns and plate glass windows to reflect the neo-classical design that was popular at that time and perhaps to resemble the house belonging to his brother, Edwin Franklin Bell, that sits on the corner of West College and South Lee streets, the present home of Charles and Kim Christmas. Hooks says the Bell brothers were local planters and owned a cotton gin business.
The most recent to call the College Street house home are Brad Ray and Tim Lewis, former Americus residents, Anericus Fire Chief Steve Moreno and his family, the family of the late Sam and Yona Lott Sr. their son, Sam Lott Jr. of Atlanta, and their late daughter, Yona.
I’m thrilled that HGTV chose a house in Americus to restore — thanks to Americus businessman Chuck Smith who happened to be in the right place at the right time for it to happen. Now everyone in far flung places with access to the HGTV Cable network can get a feel of our town. Perhaps it will spark another family to move here.
Speaking of newcomers, R.J. and Bunny Byrne, and toddler twins are making their home at 523 Harrold Ave., having moved here from Thomasville. Mike Saliba and Sally Edgemon celebrated their birthdays this week as well as Bruce, the man who reads over my shoulder. Jane Arnold and Jean Sheffield were in Savannah this week; Russell and Angie Thomas enjoyed a recent trip to Aruba; and Lisa Bliss McMichael of Dublin, who grew up here, was in town for a brief visit.

Leila Sisson Case lives in Americus.