The fate of the historic Jeremiah Payne House, also known as the Parks Clothing building, in downtown Dahlonega is slowly getting etched in stone.
Even activists who have spent months trying to save the building admit there is little hope left.
“The building is still standing and, yes, we are still fighting,” Penny Sharp, chairwoman of the Preserve Historic Dahlonega citizens group, said. “However, I think the end is very near.”
Sharp said a proposed upscale hotel development at the building’s current location does not fit with the character of a city known for its gold rush lore and small-town charm, which draws an estimated quarter of a million tourists annually.
The Parks building survived the Civil War and a nearby fire in 1904.
Located along East Main Street, it is recognized as the second-oldest building standing in the historic district.
In February, the Dahlonega City Council, citing the building’s poor condition, approved plans to have it demolished.
Sharp said her organization, which is incorporating as a 501c3 nonprofit, submitted a proposal to developer Roberta Green-Garrett to restore the building at no charge.
“The terms called for sale of the building to the nonprofit and the group would in turn lease the restored building back to (Green-Garrett) for a minimal $1 per month for life,” Sharp said. “The building could be used in any way she saw fit.”
Attorney Joseph Homans, a partner with the Fox, Chandler, Homans, Hicks & McKinnon law firm based in Gainesville who represents Green-Garrett, said that proposal was rejected because it did not offer to remove and relocate the Parks building to another location in Lumpkin County.
And that’s the only way the building can be preserved at this point.
Homans said no other bids were received to relocate the building and that the hotel development must now move forward.
But there is at least one battle left to wage.
The city’s Historic Preservation Commission will meet today to review conceptual design plans for the proposed hotel.
City planning and zoning staff have already weighed in and concluded that the current plans are not appropriate for the site. Several recommended changes have been offered.
Sharp said her members would be in attendance to offer input as they prepare to grow the organization beyond its original mission to save the Parks building.
“We have temporary officers in place,” Sharp said, adding that a general membership meeting to elect permanent officers will take place on July 13.