Stone Mountain Historic Society
The Wells-Brown House is a true Treasure. This historic home is the only Georgian structure in the Stone Mountain Historic District. Its Greek Revival detailing suggests the home was constructed in the antebellum period, but all records indicate its construction date was between 1870 and 1871. Few high style homes like the Wells-Brown House are part of the inventory of Stone Mountain’s historic homes. Simple wooden Tuscan columns support the Greek Revival Portico and other Greek Revival detailing includes the transom and sidelights surrounding the front door. Not only is the home an architectural jewel, but also it is very valuable when interpreting the City’s history. The distinctive historic periods of the house and its occupants are recovery from the Civil War when tourism and the emerging granite industry fueled the economy, and the late nineteenth and early twentieth century when the granite industry was in full swing.
Wells Brown House
Special Issue Newsletter May 2013
Wells Brown House a Local Treasure
The man who built the house was Lieutenant George Riley Wells, a confederate veteran who served in Company D, 38th Regiment Georgia Volunteer Infantry. The war devastated his family and his fortunes; however, Wells returned to Stone Mountain and rebuilt his life and his finances. He became a prominent local businessman. He married Eliza Jane Hardman in 1866 and they moved into their new home in the early 1870’s. Family letters of this period indicate that their son, James, was brought home to or born in the house in 1871. These letters are being preserved and transcribed for future generations to enjoy by the society. An exhibit of artifacts related to the Wells family and the house occupy the room that bears the builders name. James Riley Wells, George Riley Wells’ son, grew up in the house and became a doctor that served the Village. One interesting storie told by the family is that his daughter, Janie Wells, etched into one of the downstairs windows her father’s name, Dr. James R. Wells, and his trade, Doctor. This etching is intact in the George Riley Wells Room. In a time of urban sprawl and a "teardown and build" mentality, we see old landmarks disappearing daily. The Stone Mountain Historic Society is devoted to preserving, protecting, and interpreting the unique history of Stone Mountain Village and its environs. This home is truly a treasure that must be saved and maintained for the public.
By Rusty Hamby
Programs and Projects
Since its inception, the Stone Mountain Historic Society has offered great programs for our membership and our community. From storytelling to our most recent program on historic streetcars in Atlanta and Stone Mountain, our programs are both entertaining and educational. We are constantly refining our landscaping plans to incorporate late nineteenth and early twentieth-century plants into the existing vegetation. With the help of DeKalb Master Gardeners and local garden clubs we are creating a beautiful setting for our headquarters. Significant improvements have been made to the house over the last three years, particularly to the downstairs rooms. We are now in a position to make the downstairs rooms of the Wells-Brown House available for community functions. It is ideal for community-based meetings, exhibits and educational programs. The house is open to members for family or business functions. We also are happy to provide tours, by reservation only, for groups of five or more. Contact Rusty Hamby, 404-771-4406 for reservations or additional information. Please leave a message if I am unable to answer, I will get back with you.
Pancake Breakfast, Wells Brown House, May 18th, 9:00 am
Our next big event is our annual Pancake breakfast on May 18, 2013. We will be serving hot pancakes, our delicious Wells Brown House Breakfast Sausage and all the fixings including fresh fruit. We are also very pleased to offer for sale at the event or order Wells Brown House Sausage for sale. So many of you enjoyed it last year we are getting extra for this year. The breakfast is the same day as the City Wide Yard Sale, so come have a hardy breakfast before you go Treasure Hunting!
Gary Peiffer and Averil Bonsall are leading the charge to identify and inventory the city’s historic or unusual trees, and create a tree walk accompanied by a brochure that narrates the history of our city from this very different and unique perspective. Trees are planted as memorials, other have important events associated with them, other are unique for their type, stature or lack of it. Some just are associated with good stories. Come hear Gary and Averil give us the results of the inventory.
June's Third Thursday Meeting, Historic Tree Inventory Round Up, Wells Brown House, June 20th, 7:00 am
With the introduction of the NBC show Who Do You Think You Are? genealogy is increasing in popularity. The Stone Mountain Historic Society will soon be offering a variety of workshops to help members do family research. Pat Miller is working tirelessly on our new research library that will make genealogy easy and enjoyable. Bob Bonsall has graciously volunteered to make bookshelves for the upper hallway to house the library. While our collection is growing, we're still looking for copies of books about Stone Mountain and DeKalb County. On our wish list are Yesterday's Atlanta Vol. I by Franklin Garrett, Vanishing DeKalb Vols. I & II, published by our friends at the DeKalb History Center, and copies of Stone Mountain High School annuals (all years). We'd also welcome county histories from any Georgia county as well as marriage and cemetery books. With your help we can build a genealogy library that will be an asset to our entire county. We will also have wireless internet service for researchers as well as copiers and printers.
George Riley Wells Research Room, Library, and Archives
Our Society has also become the repository of items related to Stone Mountain Village. We have collections and displays related to:
George Riley Wells
The University School for Boys in Stone Mountain
The Mountain Pharmacy
The Wells/Cochran Letters (A manuscript collection of Civil War Era Letters from different members of the Wells family.)
Historic Stone Mountain Digital Image Collection
Our new curator, Theresa Hamby, is busy cataloging and organizing our growing artifact collection. We need 19th century quarrying tools to make our Shermantown exhibit more interesting. If you have something you would be willing to loan the society it will help us greatly. We would be interested in any items that would add to our growing display. Call Theresa at 770-498-4155, ext 122.
We are in the process of acquiring a beautiful rosewood square grand piano built circa 1870 by Wm. Knabe and Company of Baltimore, Maryland. This wonderful piece is being generously donated by the Bonner Family. It will truly grace the Wells Brown House and we couldn't be more delighted! Knabe and Company started as Knabe & Gaehle, a firm that built high-quality grands, uprights, and squares at a small factory in Baltimore and managed to compete with other larger, more established American manufacturers. The firm "became a part of American history when in 1838, Francis Scott Key, composer of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” commissioned the company to custom-build a square grand piano for his home... The piano was used by Key until his death in 1843 and currently resides in the Peabody Hotel in Memphis, TN." The firm would later manufacture the piano of choice for the New York Metropolitan opera. Check out more information at http://www.knabepianos.com/history.php and we will let you know when it arrives.
New Musical Acquisitions
We are equally blessed with the donation of a tabletop radio manufactured circa 1920 that has been completely restored. This beautiful piece, graciously donated by Society member Tom Aderhold, is a great tool to help us interpret how Americans connected to the state, nation and world in the early twentieth century. Radio broadcasting likely began in 1920, starting a craze for radio broadcasting and the need for all homes to have a radio. One source notes that between 1923 and 1930, 60 percent of American families purchased radios and families would gather around their radios for night-time entertainment. See http://xroads.virginia.edu/~ug00/3on1/radioshow/1920radio.htm for more information on the history of radio broadcasting.
We are so pleased to have received this wonderful gift that is not only a piece of history but allows us to have musical entertainment in 2013!