A Landmark Decision in Marietta
Cobb County's foremost historical preservation group has a new home in a 111-year-old house, a gift from two longtime supporters.
When Nancy Gadberry gets time to wander around the house, she often trips over the history of the place.
“You can’t walk through this house without imagining what it was like to live here,” says the executive director of Cobb Landmarks and Historical Society. “It’s inescapable to me. I come in the back door and think, how many times did they sit on this porch? You can see the activity.”
Traffic on this hot weekday afternoon is inching up Whitlock Avenue toward Marietta Square, but as Gadberry stands in a small, second-floor alcove in the front of the house, she envisions the ebb and flow of the city circa 1900, when the Anderson house was built.
“It’s a little bit eclectic, but that’s why I’m almost positive the architect did not pick all these things,” Gadberry says. “It’s a little bit of a mix of styles, and I think the family put in what they liked, and I think that’s just great.”
About six weeks ago the house got a new tenant: Cobb Landmarks.
Gadberry’s office on the second floor is “probably about four times bigger” than the space she and two staff members shared for the past two years at the Marietta/Cobb Museum of Art on Atlanta Street.
The James T. Anderson house at 65 Whitlock Ave. is a fitting home for Cobb Landmarks. The organization, now more than 30 years old, has about 750 members and an active board of trustees whose mission is to “proactively preserve and promote the heritage, quality of life and sense of place unique to Cobb County.”
Cobb Landmarks, funded through membership dues, sponsorship donations and the work of volunteers, focuses its efforts on “education, advocacy and public affairs, and preservation,” according to its website.
The use of the Anderson house was a donation from Sandy and Nancy Edwards, longtime supporters of Cobb Landmarks who bought the home in 2008.
“They bought it with the idea of saving it, making sure nothing happened to it,” Gadberry says. “They are very, very passionate about historic homes. They wanted us to have a place.”
The house had been a family home since 1900 when James Anderson had it built.
In the book Marietta, the Gem City of Georgia, Douglas Frey writes that “although this house is an early example of the style, it is almost certain that, in Marietta, Colonial Revival architecture reached its apogee with the completion of the Anderson house. There have been few equivalents since then.”
Frey’s book, which Cobb Landmarks published before the move into the Anderson house, is the organization’s big project these days. The book focuses on 50 of the city’s oldest homes.
Frey’s research shows that the Andersons lived in the house until 1950, when it was bought by James and Elleen Fowler, who raised five children.
The Fowler family owned the home until 2005, when it was bought by Brian and Linda Davidson, who lived in it for three years before selling to the Edwards.
Gadberry came up a winding road to be the home’s latest inhabitant.
She was born in Jefferson, TX, due east of Dallas near the Louisiana border. Jefferson is recognized as the state’s fifth-oldest town, and Gadberry grew up being a docent at historical venues. “It was always something,” she says. “Texas has an organization called the Junior Historians. I was in one of the charter chapters of that.”
College took her into a finance career, and she worked for years with AT&T in Atlanta, where her jobs included executive director of trust asset management.
“I’m a recovering accountant,” she says with a laugh.
“I lived in Atlanta for 25 years and had an opportunity to change my lifestyle, so I moved to Rome. I had started grad school as an offshoot of that, so I commuted back from Rome to Georgia State.”
Gadberry was working as chief financial officer at Zion Farms Equestrian Estate near Rome while studying for her master’s degree in historical preservation at GSU. That lasted for a year and a half.
She took the job at Cobb Landmarks about two years ago.
“It really is, for me, coming full circle back,” she says. “When I was in college, these degrees weren’t available or were well hidden. This is coming back.”
As Gadberry settles in at the Anderson house, Cobb Landmarks staff members shuttle between their new home and the Root House Museum a few blocks away at the corner of North Marietta Parkway and Polk Street.
That is Cobb Landmarks’ flagship property, where the organization got its start as a preservation group.
Cobb Landmarks staff and trustees are still talking about what to do with the Anderson home, Gadberry says. Preservation seminars and workshops are likely to happen, and she’d like to see a room available for researchers and students. “There are a lot of possibilities.”
Gadberry does not see the Anderson house becoming a museum. The house is sparsely furnished today, but the families who lived in it for more than 100 years kept it in good shape.
“If you furnish a structure like this with authentic furniture, then it becomes an issue when you want to have functions here,” she says. “You have to strike that balance.”
Whatever decisions are made, Gadberry knows she’ll have plenty of help. “It’s a great organization,” she says of Cobb Landmarks. “We have very strong volunteers, and they put in a lot of time. There are a great many people who are involved. If you look at the board of trustees over the years, it’s kind of a who’s who in Marietta.”