The Smyrna City Council voted unanimously to pay $145,000 for the home nine years ago, saving it from being razed by a proposed development. The house, at 5811 Oakdale Drive, Mableton, lies between Nickajack Park and the Chattahoochee River.
The one-story, two-bedroom brick home that sits on 1 acre was purchased from the home’s former resident, Frances Presley.
It isn’t in the boundaries of the city and sits in nearby Mableton, just 425 feet from the Smyrna line. The property was planned for annexation into Smyrna but when the recession hit and development fell through, annexation plans were dropped.
Smyrna has been trying to find a buyer for years, and Mayor Max Bacon said the city still doesn’t have confirmation that the home was actually used in the Civil War.
“It’s not a million-dollar deal, but it’s still taxpayer money,” Bacon said.
The most recent property listing had an asking price of $159,000.
Bacon said he didn’t question the time period of the home and was “disappointed” when the city learned there was no proof it operated as a hospital.
“My position has been we need to sell the property and get our money back,” Bacon said.
Smyrna Councilman Wade Lnenicka supported the purchase and said the city’s goals were “noble and proper.”
“The city stepped in and purchased the house to … buy some time to do more archeological studies and research to confirm or deny that it was historic,” Lnenicka said.
At the time, Lnenicka said, the housing market was going strong and the city believed it would be able to sell the home if it was found not to be historic.
“Land was going for more than what we paid for it,” Lnenicka said.
He says a structure supporting the house appears to be hand-cut timber and that could put the house as being originally built in the 1850s.
Still, there isn’t any proof it served as a hospital and Lnenicka says Smyrna has “no interest” in owning that property.
“Studies have shown something that would suggest the house might predate the Civil War, but there are no written records that we’re aware of confirming that,” Lnenicka said. “No deeds. No letters or diaries or period newspaper articles.”
It’s possible the house wasn’t a Civil War hospital, but it’s still a historic structure and worth saving, said Roberta Cook, founder of the Chattahoochee River Line Historic Area who pushed for the purchase.
The home was put on Cobb’s Historic Register in 2003, and a Georgia State University study dates the home’s construction to the 1850s, before the Civil War began.
Cook says that likely means it was used in the war.
“Generally speaking, if any structure was standing during the war ... if it was standing it served a purpose either as a headquarters or as a hospital,” Cook said.
It’s mostly folklore and handed down stories that led neighbors to believe wounded soldiers were treated in the house.
Cook said she doesn’t believe she should question such stories.
“If these people over time have been saying this, who am I to discredit it?” she said.