This Old House: Historic home returns to grandeur

By Greg Gelpi

Making sure that there were no doors to the balconies and that the front door was put on the back of the house, Mark and Melissa Chambers are ensuring all is done right.

With bank employees laughing and passers-by popping their heads in out of curiosity, Chambers Enterprises Unlimited took what had become an eyesore just off the McDonough Square and have nearly completed its restoration.

Meticulously researching old documents and interviewing residents of the area, the husband and wife worked to stay true to the historic nature of the house at 33 Jonesboro St., paying attention to all of the historic accuracy.

From balconies with no doors to much of the original woodwork, Chambers Enterprises Unlimited has restored the nearly 4,000-square-foot house to its original grandeur. Houses were taxed based on the number of doors they had, Mark Chambers explained. Residents crawled through windows to get on to balconies to avoid paying additional taxes at the time.

So far, Mark Chambers has been able to date the house back to 1879, but it could be even older. Among the residents of the historic home was J.B. Dickson, the mayor of McDonough at one time.

Since then, the house was carved into separate apartments where college students lived most recently. It was "scary," Melissa Chambers said.

"It had some issues," she said. "It took a lot of blood, sweat and tears."

Melissa Chambers said her philosophy has been preservation and conservation through education.

When complete, the house will serve as a National Wildlife Federation bird habitat, her office, a model home for the business and a place for students to take field trips to learn about wild birds and old home restoration.

The backyard, which at one time was the front yard of the house since the street moved, features six mulberry trees, not bushes, which Mark Chambers said is "extremely rare from what he has been told."

"We get so many birds back here, and we didn't know what it was," he said, pointing out that many of the birds feed on the mulberries.

The toughest part was just starting, Melissa Chambers said.

"You know what, it's a blur to me," she said. "There's a lot more to this than just building a new house."

Even the original door is presenting a challenge. The door, which someone offered $7,000 to buy, must have layers of paint removed through a special process that melts the paint off.

"It's going to look like a museum," Randy Bartlett, Chambers Enterprises Unlimited vice president, said. "We don't want it to be too commercial. We do want to keep the house as original as we can. We don't want this house to turn into just another house on the block."

The goal has been to make something out of the past for the future, Mark Chambers said.

"We don't want to be exclusive," Bartlett said. "We want it to be a community house."

The business does a "little bit of everything," Bartlett said. Although it specializes in restoring historic homes, it also works on new homes, performs landscaping work and installs putting greens.