2012-03-22 / News

Hybrid ‘Johnson House’ still under reconstruction

SASANQUA KNOLL – Home of Martha Read – 513 Spring Street SASANQUA KNOLL – Home of Martha Read – 513 Spring Street The annual Spring Tour of Homes in Washington-Wilkes will be held Friday and Saturday, March 30-31.

The evening tour on Friday night will feature the recently-built house at 130 Tignall Road, now owned by George and JoAnn Clark from Albuquerque, New Mexico, where the annual Champagne Reception will be held. Cost for the reception and tour of the house will be $10 per person. This is the only house open on Friday evening.

The Day Tour on Saturday will have seven homes open, plus the Robert Toombs Historic Site, the Washington Museum, Callaway Plantation, and local churches.

Cost for the Day Tour is $30 per person. The Tour of Homes Luncheon at the Washington Woman’s Club is $10 per person. Any tour home may be viewed individually by paying $8 at the door or $10 for the champagne reception.

Reservations for the tour and for the luncheon may be made by check payable to the Washington-Wilkes Tour of Homes, P.O. Box 1293, Washington 30673; or by calling the Washington-Wilkes Chamber of Commerce, 706-678-2013, for more information. Major credit cards are accepted online

The tour will be held, rain or shine.

Headquarters for the tour will be at the Chamber of Commerce office on The Square on Friday from 10 a.m.-6:30 p.m.; and on Saturday at the Washington-Wilkes Elementary School, 109 East Street, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Courtesy tour cars will be provided from the elementary school all day Saturday, beginning at 10 a.m., shuttling visitors to all tour sites. There will be ample parking at the school

Also open on Tour Day will be the old North Alexander School. Visitors may see the progress being made on restoring the school.

Of special interest on the Day Tour this year will be the Irvin (most recently, Charles) home at 210 West Robert Toombs Avenue. Since the death of Charles Irvin, the house has been owned by his niece, Reba Irvin Griffith, of Atlanta, who is carefully restoring the house. This is the first time ever that the house has been on a tour, despite the fact that it is one of the oldest houses in town.

Other houses on the tour include the home of John and Lisa Peddar, 415 S. Alexander Avenue; Sasanqua Knoll, 513 Spring Street, owned by Martha Read; the Cozart House, 211 Court Street, owned by Barbara Denman; the home of Ellon Penna, 408 South Alexander Avenue; the home of Gary and Suzanne Norman, 406, South Alexander Avenue; and George Washington Court, owned by Linda Dresch, 219 East Robert Toombs Avenue (formerly LaFayette Manor.)

Sasanqua Knoll 513 Spring Street Home of Martha Read

This hybrid Federal-Victorian house has been known in recent years as “the Johnson House” and its long history is still in the process of reconstruction.

The house obviously pre-dates the Civil War by many years. Earliest courthouse records indicate a sale of the house from A.L. Alexander to J.C. Stummer in 1868. It cannot be established with certainty just when the original house was built but it appears to have been basically the familiar four-over-four influenced by Thomas Jefferson’s Federal Style in the first half of the Nineteenth Century.

The house was originally situated on “six acres, more or less” and its location was described as “on the street leading from the courthouse south to the mineral spring.” This is the origin of the name Spring Street and refers to a spring at the site of the old country club south of Washington.

Many prominent Wilkes Countians owned the property through the years, including Samuel Barnett, John C. Stummer, Mrs. S.E. Harris (formerly Mrs. S.D. Keough), T.J. Barksdale, John Milton Wood, and James Johnson, who purchased the property in June 1939. The house stayed in the Johnson family for almost half a century, hence, the Johnson House name.

Following the death of Mrs. Daisy Power Johnson in January 1986, Smythe and Jane Rider Newsome purchased the property in April 1987 from her sons and daughters and the heirs. The Newsomes restored the house to its present state and subsequently sold it to Jack and Ann Sherrer Tanner in 1989. Martha Read from Charleston, S.C., purchased the property from Mrs. Tanner in 2012.5.75”


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The renovation plan for the restoration in 1987 was drawn for the Newsomes by Atlanta architect Erman Fortenberry and implemented by craftsman Thomas Charping, retaining the outward appearance of the original structure but incorporating modern features.

During the restoration process, Thomas Charping’s father, Joe Charping, who rebuilt the crumbling chimneys, said that the bricks used in the original chimneys were handmade. The chimneys are exposed in six rooms in the renovation plan. The interior includes a music room, solarium, and patio at the rear, a basement room for utilities, a second-floor deck, and enlarged kitchen.

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