Owner's restoration hopes still alive after brick wall collapsed

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Restoring the 212-year-old Goodale House, one of Georgia's oldest houses, could come with a price tag too high for the owner's shallow pockets.

Wes Sims, a Birmingham, Ala., property investor, said the Federal-style, multistory building built in 1799 is a slow-moving project in good hands.

"If I had the means, that house would have been under way," Sims said. "My only intention is to preserve it."

On Friday, the west wall chimney collapsed, taking much of a brick wall down. Sims was aware of the instability with the wall and took measurements for construction purposes last week.

"I figured out what I was going to do, but it didn't hang in there long enough," he said.

A building inspector told him of the collapse Friday afternoon, Sims said Saturday while traveling from Birmingham to Augusta.

"It broke my heart to hear about that wall," he said. "I thought it was years out before anything like that would happen."

The wall collapse could be a blessing in disguise. Fixing the brick wall, which Sims said previous owners had tried to reinforce, would have been like putting a bandage on the problem.

"Now, we'll be able to do it right," he said.

Since Sims purchased the house in 2009, he has been repairing it bit by bit as he acquires money. He can't estimate a final cost or completion date, but he hopes the house will open to the public some day.

"I would love to talk to someone to see if we have options to get the ball rolling before any more damage occurs," Sims said. "I would like to work with others if goals align."

Sims has flipped houses before but had never taken on a historical preservation project. He has researched the house and the historic Augusta area.

"To me, it's the most fascinating piece of property I know about," he said.

The house was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976 as the Fitzsimmons-Hampton House. The surrounding area was a 500-acre plantation established by Thomas Goodale, the operator of the Sand Bar Ferry, in 1740.

Aside from the collapsed wall, the house is structurally sound, according to Sims.

He said he will consider sleeping in the house this week as he cleans up debris and boards up the wall, which he called a temporary fix.

"I'm definitely not scared about the house falling down," he said.

Sims won't entertain ideas of razing the house. He intends to make greater efforts to move the project along, with the majority of work involving plaster and wood in the house's interior. The house received new electrical wiring and plumbing work in the 1990s, Sims said.

Learn more

TO JOIN THE CAUSE to preserve the Goodale House, view photos of the owner's restoration process and see photos of the wall collapse, search for "Save the Goodale" on facebook.com.

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