By Patrick Fox
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Milton just got the perfect emblem of its dream of preserving a rustic lifestyle for residents.
The city, not quite 5 years old, has purchased what may be one of the oldest structures in Fulton County, a building so old it has had nearly a dozen names.
It has gone by the Hopewell House, the Stagecoach Inn, the McClesky-Day House and other names, mostly those of former owners. City officials estimate it was built in 1805.
"I believe it's the most historic structure within our city limits," said Patti Silva, a member of the Milton Historic Preservation Commission. "I screamed aloud when the city bought it."The building, which sits on 3 acres near the corner of Hopewell and Birmingham roads, originally had four main interior rooms. A two-room extension was used overnight by Moravian preachers as they passed through in the 1820s. Three more rooms were added in recent years.
The house was listed for $350,000 by Branch Banking and Trust, which owned the property through foreclosure. The city paid $250,000 for the property as part of its recent drive to bolster its parks and recreation portfolio.
In its first three years Milton spent a total of $51,000 on parks and park improvements.
But the city has been busy. So far this year, it has sunk $224,042 into restorations at the Bethwell Community Center, parkland acquisition and improvements at Bell Memorial Park off Hopewell Road. It also has budgeted $65,000 to develop plans for its parks and recreation department, its trail system and the yet-to-open Birmingham Park.
Overall, there are $1.85 million in capital expenses budgeted for parks and recreation this year, although it is likely most of that will carry over to 2012.
City officials said they were concerned Milton might lose one of its most historic landmarks when the house went into foreclosure about a year ago.
"The house was vacant and it was deteriorating," City Manager Chris Lagerbloom said. "Frankly, we got the bank down to about as low as they could take."
City crews have been out this week clearing dead trees and working to stabilize the structure.
No firm plans have been made, but City Councilman Bill Lusk said he would like to see the building restored for use as a culture center, much like Alpharetta's Mansell House.
It also could double as an archive for local memorabilia and documents from old Milton County, he said.
"I think it ties in well with the vision of the city as being interested in its history and promoting the rural character of the city," Lusk said.