The historic 1818 building was damaged in a June 21 storm when a large pecan tree fell. It skimmed across the roof’s back edge and crashed onto the rear porch. The incident left holes in the roof and siding, broke a dormer, crumbled a portion of one of the brick chimneys, and twisted the porch’s ironwork railing from places where it had been anchored.
“It’s sad and disheartening to see,” said Rebekah Henry, executive director of the institute. “It could have been worse though. If the tree had fallen six inches further forward, it could have taken one whole half of the building.”
Ware’s Folly at 506 Telfair is on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s considered the finest example of Federal style architecture in Georgia, said Erick Montgomery, executive director of Historic Augusta.
The building will be repaired according to historic restoration standards, which means original salvaged materials will be used or they will be duplicated. The biggest challenge will be replacing damaged 200-year-old exterior molding, which was hand-carved.
“They need somebody who’s a real craftsman to do it. It’s not the kind of thing you can pick up at a home improvement store,” Montgomery said.
A repair estimate has not been completed yet, but Henry said if the entire roof has to be replaced it could cost upwards of $100,000 to $200,000. Insurance will pay for repairs, but because the institute carries a high deductible, fundraising will be needed to cover that portion of the cost.
Ware’s Folly was named for Nicholas Ware, a former Augusta mayor and senator, who built the mansion in 1818 for $40,000, an exorbitant sum at the time. It was home to several prominent Augusta families, including William C. Sibley, a cotton mill owner. In 1937 Olivia Herbert, a wealthy New Yorker and art enthusiast who wintered in Augusta, purchased Ware’s Folly and donated it to the Augusta Art Club in memory of her daughter, Gertrude.
The nonprofit Gertrude Herbert Institute of Arts today offers ongoing studio art classes for adults and children and hosts more than visual art exhibitions per year.