Update, Dec. 7: The Hall County Planning Commission recommended approval of use as an event center Monday, Dec. 7. The matter now goes before the Hall County Board of Commissioners for final action on Jan. 14.
Original story: What was once dubbed “the ghost room” because of its years of debris and boarded-up windows has been transformed into an airy room for weddings and other celebrations.
“We joke and say that the ghosts love us because we feel like the place is coming back to life,” said Betsy House, a 25-year licensed physical therapy assistant who is helping with restoration at the century-old New Holland recreation center at 100 Spring St.
The building’s gymnasium and swimming pool are relics of the past. The brick structure, facing Jesse Jewell Parkway in the New Holland community, now houses Lanier Therapy in Motion other medical offices.
Many old rooms, including a bowling alley and locker rooms near the pool, weren’t being used and, at one time, were collecting clutter and dust. Restoration work has long been underway throughout the building.
House particularly has eyed “the ghost room,” or the building’s original “men’s parlor,” where men in the 1920s gathered in chairs around a fireplace to smoke cigars and socialize.
About a year and a half ago, with her daughter about to get married, House asked the building’s owner, Warner Brock, about going “into this old, junky room and cleaning it up so I could have her wedding shower.”
Hall County Planning Commission
What: Rezoning to allow social events at old New Holland recreation center
When: Monday, Dec. 7Where: Hall County Government Center, 2875 Browns Bridge Road, Gainesville
“It had one screw-in light bulb that just hung (in the air),” she said, giving The Times a tour of the building on Wednesday, Dec. 2.
The room, otherwise, had been “left abandoned,” House added.
“We just took everything that was stored in here and began taking it to the dump,” she said. “And the room kind of exposed itself.”
Painstaking scraping of spilled paint gave way to original wood floors. The men’s parlor has other reminders of its history, including its brick fireplace and overhead wood beams. Modern touches have been made as well, such as light bulbs strung across the room.
Visitors not only encouraged Lanier Therapy staff to rent the room but asked if they could use it for baby showers, church functions and other such gatherings.
“It was not our intention to do an event venue,” House said. “We just love this building. It has so much history. Many of our patients have told us stories (about the center).”
Now, moving forward with using part of the center for events means jumping through government hoops. A Hall County Planning Commission meeting is set for Monday, Dec. 7.
The operation, New Holland Parlor, is seeking a rezoning from planned office development to planned commercial development so it can pursue “recreational and/or cultural uses of a commercial nature.”
“The portion of the property being proposed as the recreational and/or cultural portion of the property are unoccupied rooms which were cleaned out and had permits pulled for HVAC and electrical by licensed contractors,” states a Hall County planning staff report.
The planning staff recommends approval.
“I feel good about it. I don’t feel like anybody should have an issue,” House said. “We’re small. We can never grow. It’s never going to be any more than it is. Our priority is always going to be our day job — and that’s physical therapy. But this has been fun.”