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What secrets hide in your walls?
Do you have a trunk hidden in your attic, or old photos found in a closet? HGTV wants you!
What have you found in the walls of your home? HGTV wants to know. - photo by stock.xchng

Homes can tell stories just like people, but without speaking.

Some have old trunks packed away that tell a story through letters. There may be a package of old photos hidden in the wall, or something lurking in the basement, just waiting to be found.

And this is what "If Walls Could Talk," a show on HGTV, is looking for.

"We have been spreading the word for weeks now and we are still casting," said Mindy Christiansen, HGTV archival researcher. "We need at least three to five homes before we will set up the trip; the time we are looking at is fall, maybe winter."

The series is looking for homes in Gainesville or the Hall County area with stories to be told through items found inside.

"If Walls Could Talk," which airs on Sundays and is set to begin its ninth season, chronicles home owners and their homes as they make discoveries. Also, an appraiser may stop by to see how much the finds are worth.

"We are looking for people that have knowledge, passion and a real love of the history of their house," said Scott Paddor, HGTV supervising producer. "Usually they come to that, not because they are historians, but they've moved into a house that they know nothing about and they start finding stuff. It could be initials carved in a wall in the attic, a child's toy that they find down in the basement or family photos."
Christiansen adds that stories abound but artifacts are more rare.

"A lot of these home owners they have great histories but they don't have artifacts to support the history," she said. "So we are really looking for people that have found things that really show a fascinating story of the house."

The show has visited 49 states during its span and is hosted by Mike Siegel, who is a professional stand-up comedian, host and actor.
Recent discoveries on the show include a Connecticut family who moves into a neglected 1800s Victorian only to find antiques and a mysterious locked cabinet, and a husband and wife who restore a turn-of-the-century bank into their dream home and find the original bank vault full of safety deposit boxes that are still locked.

One of the stranger stories that aired was the New York man who bought a 100-year-old mansion and makes a discovery in the basement: His home used to be a funeral home.

"The houses we've done in Georgia ... are the houses that have a lot of Civil War history in them," Paddor said. "We've done houses that are generational where the house gets passed down through the family and the current people who we meet living in the house didn't realize the rich history that their family had left behind through clothes, pictures, objects, even defects in the house. We find Georgia to be specifically a rich place to find homes with stories to tell."

Locally, Brad Abernathy, a Gainesville native, made an interesting find when he remodeled his home: Two old steel Dr. Pepper cans, which are the type that must be opened with a "church key."

"I think it is amazing when someone can be cleaning out their attic and opens up an old dusty trunk and find art by a listed artist and the art happens to be worth a lot of money," Paddor said. "Or they are dusting off their stained glass windows or original light fixtures and realize that they aren't just old, they were made by Tiffany."

But not everyone finds something of interest, even if they are restoring an historic location.

Margery Johnson, a member of the Colonel William Candler Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, recently earned the Historic Preservation Medal and certificate for her work to preserve, restore and rebuild the Piedmont Hotel in Gainesville.

The hotel, built in 1872-73, was purchased by General James Longstreet in 1875. But despite its rich history, as she's restored the interior of the building she said she has found nothing but "a couple of bottles that the workers left there."

"I would say it's moderately hard (to find homes with artifacts)," Paddor said. "Just think about how many thousands and thousands of home and families there are out there. It's more about getting the word out. When that happens successfully, the stories just pop out of the woodwork."

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