Photo by Heather Middleton
By Joel Hall
When it was built, Jonesboro's "Green House," at 139 College St., was described by Atlanta newspapers as "the most beautiful house between Atlanta and Macon," according to local historians.
In 1878, long before it was known as the "Green House," the three-story, Looney-Hanes House was the living quarters of professor George Cleveland Looney, president of Middle Georgia College.
The college, which ceased to exist at the turn of the 20th Century, once sat in what is now the parking lot of First Baptist Church of Jonesboro. Sitting directly across the street, the Looney-Hanes House also served as a male dormitory for students attending the college.
According to Ted Key, a local historian and a member of Historical Jonesboro/Clayton County, Inc., the Looney-Hanes house was built in 1878 by Elijah Hanes, a Clayton County farmer, who made a fortune in Dahlonega during the 1820s gold rush.
"The Hanes family had an agreement that the students could live on the land, as long as the college was there," Key said. "They [the Looney family] boarded students upstairs. There is a hidden room on the other side of the dinning room," he said. "From there, you go up to this ladder ... from there, he [Professor Looney] could spy on the boys to make sure that they were behaving.
"It was said to be the most beautiful house between Atlanta and Macon, when it was built ... That's how it was described by the Atlanta papers," Key continued. "The rooms were spacious and the ceilings were very high. There was a ladies' parlor and a gentleman's parlor. There was a formal dining room. The architecture is very unique."
In the 1990s, according to Key, the house was used as a museum and event center for weddings and other celebrations. There were plans, at one time, to make the home a bed and breakfast, he said.
According to Abb Dickson, the home's current owner, however, the bed-and-breakfast plans for the unique, 19th-Century house never came to fruition. Instead, due to a declining economy and a lack of interest in tours, the home was put on the market two years ago, he said.
"It's the oldest, wooden home in the county," said Dickson, who owns the Pope Dickson & Son Funeral Home franchise. "During the 10 years we were open ... we opened it up as a cultural center and used it as an example of what homes were like in those days. About four years ago, we tried to make it a bed and breakfast, but it never seemed to catch on.
"When the fire department switched to the county, they wanted to treat it like a hotel," he continued. "We were required to put in a 2,500-gallon grease pit ... They wanted sprinklers, up and down the building. We never went through with it. A few years ago, the house was closed to the public."
Currently, the house is up for sale, with an asking price of about $200,000, Dickson said.
Ed Wise, business manager of Pope Dickson & Son Funeral Home, and who is helping sell the home, said "It's a victim of the economy." He believes with the right owner and some exterior work, the home could be restored to its former glory.
"It's closed, just like a lot of other businesses around here," he said. "They had a good thing going when they were doing weddings and events. A lot of wiring has been redone. The water and sewer pipes have been redone. It wouldn't take too much elbow grease [to restore the home]."
Key said the house has great historical value to Jonesboro, and hopes that anyone who buys it will keep it intact. "I'd hate for it to flip out of ownership of Abb, because he has done a wonderful job of restoring it and preserving its history," Key said.
"We don't know who is going to buy it, and what they are going to do with it ... That is one of the big fears with all of the old houses in Jonesboro that are still standing. If it could be turned into a bed and breakfast," he said, "that would be wonderful. My dream would be for it to be preserved."