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Local attraction endangered by trees

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

The Stately Oaks plantation's main house was built in 1839, near the present-day intersection of Tara Boulevard and Mt. Zion Road, and it survived the Civil War in the 1860s, and a move to its present location on Carriage Lane in Jonesboro in the 1970s.

Barbara Emert, the president of Historical Jonesboro/Clayton County, Inc., which owns Stately Oaks and operates a museum out of it, is making a public appeal for donations, though, because she said the old house faces a new threat -- from a large oak tree that is leaning precariously close to the building.

Emert said there are a total of three trees which need to be, either cut down, or cut back, to preserve the buildings on the structure. Another oak is leaning over the plantation's school house, and a dead pine tree in its Indian village.

If the trees fall on the nearby structures, Stately Oaks could be shut down forever, Emert said -- and worse -- anyone touring the proerty at that time could be injured of killed.

"What we fear is that the wind will knock them over because all of the rain we've had has probably loosened their roots," Emert said. "I'm very concerned, because if the tree fell on the house, I doubt we'd be able to repair the damages. I believe it would do so much damage that it'd be beyond repair ... Also, if the tree fell while there were 15 people taking a tour of the house, it would be a catastrophe."

Emert said Historical Jonesboro, Inc., needs to raise as much as $3,000 to protect the structures from the trees. That is how much it would cost to completely cut down all three trees, she said. She added that, if the organization decides to only have the dead pine tree cut down, and have 50 percent of the branches on the leaning oak trees removed, the cost would only be $1,250.

She said Historical Jonesboro's executive board has not yet made a decision on which way it will go. Either way, it's money the organization does not have, she said.

"We're very fortunate, that we make enough money off the tours to cover our operating expenses, but when we have these special-needs projects, like this, we find ourselves in a position where we don't have enough money to cover the costs," she said.

Emert said Historical Jonesboro has received one donation, from Pope Dickson & Son Funeral Home in Jonesboro. She declined to say how much money it was, but said it was a "nice donation," but that Historical Jonesboro needs more money to have the trees removed.

The main house at Stately Oaks Plantation served as the setting for a little bit of Clayton County Civil War history, Emert said. Union troops used it as their headquarters during the Battle of Jonesborough. The house was donated to Historical Jonesboro/Clayton County, Inc., in 1972 by Emily Orr Haynie. In 1972, it was moved from the area near the intersection of Tara Boulevard and Mt. Zion Road, to its present home at 100 Carriage Lane, in Jonesboro, and renovated to be a museum.

The house hosts a variety of special programs and events throughout the year, including the Taste of Clayton in June, the Victorian Mourning tours in August, and Christmas tours in December. In late October, Historical Jonesboro will stage "The Evacuation of Jonesborough," which is a re-enactment of Jonesboro residents fleeing the city during the Civil War as the Union Army moved in.

The main house is on the National Register of Historic Places, Emert said.

The oak tree that is threatening the house is leaning over the back portion of the building. Its base is about 20 feet from the wheelchair ramp leading to the back entrance of the house, branches from the tree are touching the roof of the building.

Next to the main house is the 1880s school house that was moved to the plantation property in the 1980s. People who participate in Historical Jonesboro's dinner and lunch tours are fed in the school house, and they are joined by the organization's docents, other staff, and a catering crew.

There is an oak tree about one foot from the rear right side corner of the school house, and it is leaning over the building. "Between 20 and 50 people could be on the [plantation] grounds during a dinner or lunch tour," Emert said. "So, that tree could come down, and there'd be 50 people in the school house."

Anyone who wants to make a donation to help with the tree problem, can call Stately Oaks at (770)473-0197.