Augusta firm is restoring 130-year-old Phinizy home

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Rob Mauldin is no playwright, but he is hoping to write a third act for a building that has already seen 130 years of Augusta history.

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Rob Mauldin, the vice president and principal architect at 2KM Architects, gives a tour of the Phinizy House. The firm is working to restore the downtown complex, built about 1882.  JACKIE RICCIARDI/STAFF
Rob Mauldin, the vice president and principal architect at 2KM Architects, gives a tour of the Phinizy House. The firm is working to restore the downtown complex, built about 1882.

It began as the fine home of a wealthy man during America’s Gilded Age. Its second act lasted more than 60 years as the last place thousands of Augustans passed through on their way to a final resting place.

Now workers are restoring the rambling complex on the corner of Monument and Greene streets after it sat empty and crumbling for almost a decade. Mauldin said when he and his partner, Dan King, bought the property in 2010, roof leaks and general neglect had taken a heavy toll.

They knew it was going to be a huge project to restore the place to its former glory, but someone had to take it on, Mauldin said.

“I just couldn’t stand to watch it go downhill,” said Mauldin, the vice president and principal architect at 2KM Architects, which is supervising the renovation and will become one of the tenants upon completion.

The brick home was built about 1882 by Jacob Phinizy, a member of a wealthy Augusta family involved in many business endeavors and local politics, said Erick Montgomery, the executive director of Historic Augusta. Phinizy, who served as president of Georgia Railroad Bank and twice as mayor of Augusta, lived there until his death in 1924.

Little is known about what happened at the house over the next decade, but by the late 1930s it had become a business – Grealish, Poteet and Ryan Funeral Home.

Within a few years, Henry Poteet bought out his partners and was raising a family on the home’s upper floors, said Tommy Poteet, one of Henry Poteet’s two sons.

Poteet said he and his brother, Howard, grew up there on Greene Street attending the Houghton school and St. James Methodist Church.

He said his father made most of the changes and renovations to the home to accommodate the family business. The most significant was the construction of a chapel in 1958.

“My father built that when I was in mortuary school in Nashville,” Poteet said.

He said his family sold the business to Loewen Group of Burnaby, British Columbia, in 1992 and entered into an agreement to manage it for the corporation.

That agreement lasted about 10 years, until Loewen went bankrupt and the Poteets were asked to vacate the premises.

“I got a letter that said my services were no longer needed,” he said.

The property, once valued at more than $1 million, sat vacant until 2KM purchased it for $220,000. Mauldin said the entire complex, house, chapel and attached stable total about 18,000 square feet.

“There’s even more roof than that,” he said, referring to their biggest priority for repair after obtaining the property. Roof leaks had collapsed ceilings and rotted out portions of wooden floors, he said.

“We’ve already spent a fortune on the chapel roof and restoring the home’s metal roofs,” he said.

In the past year, the work changed to selectively demolishing interior additions that had been constructed over the years and trying to get the home as close to the original layout as possible.

It will never be exactly how it looked when Phinizy lived there in the 1880s, however.

The 1958 addition sealed off windows and destroyed part of a wrap-around porch, and other changes, including a “bridge” connecting the house and stable, cannot be reversed.

Recently workers have uncovered evidence of old murals decorating wall panels in the home’s front parlor. The paintings, which lie underneath thick layers of paint and wallpaper, are being studied by 2KM project manager Michael Grenz, who is trained in art restoration.

Grenz said the paintings, which feature female figures styled after 19th-century Italian artwork, appear to be part of the home’s original decorations, but it is too early to say exactly what they are. Only a few scant portions have been revealed. It will take months of painstaking work to reveal and restore them, he said.

Mauldin said the restoration is progressing and 2KM hopes to relocate its offices from Wrightsboro Road to part of the complex by the fall. Other portions, including the interior of the chapel, will continue to be renovated and restored for other businesses to occupy, he said.

Poteet, whose funeral business Thomas Poteet and Son has been on Davis Road for the past decade, is happy to see what is happening to the place where his family lived and worked for more than 60 years.

“I think it is wonderful,” he said. “I was sick to see the place falling apart.”

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countyman 05/28/12 - 01:07 am
I don't ever remember having

I don't ever remember having this much construction underway or completed downtown in my lifetime.... I can't speak for the 50's and 60's, but definitely the 80's and beyond... 556 Broad street is another vacant building coming back to life, but I don't know the actual plans yet.. I'm most excited to see both Lower Broad street and Greene attracting private investments..

Lower Broad
S4 Lounge at 952 Broad, Bar 544 at 544 Broad, Just Essentials at 956 Broad, and Killer B Disc Golf at 863 Broad, 565 Broad, 586 Broad, The Sprint Food & Metro Market( renovation of the belk warehouse next to Augusta common, Sprint home offices and other tenants on the 1st floor, 2nd floor 'urban market' restaurant/convenience store, open air seating) at 851 Broad street, Downtown Barroom 877 Broad, and Sit A Spell coffee at 903 Broad..

Greene street
920 Greene St, 464 Greene, 1225 Greene, and 834 Greene street in the CBD.. Along with the renovation of the Dunbar Howard House at 314-316 Greene in Olde Town..

920 Greene street six apts, 1225 Greene street, 834 Greene street, Dunbar Howard House at 314-316 Greene in Olde Town 12 apts, 967 Broad 4 apts, 220-222 6th street, 307 9th street, Red Star Building 4 apts on 9th street, Emporium 9 apts, 901 Broad street, etc

Discovery Plaza(Fort Discovery), 464 Greene street, 851 Broad street Sprint Food & Metro Market, 877 Broad Downtown Barroom, Jacoby Phinizy House at 529 Greene, etc

JB Whites condo/private parking 51(34 new) condos, 586 Broad, 566 Broad, etc

Craig Spinks
Craig Spinks 05/28/12 - 01:04 am

Why doesn't My Hometown emulate Brunswick and convert vacant lots in downtown into beautiful mini-parks?

Oh, I forgot. Billy's a "taker," not a giver.

countyman 05/28/12 - 03:39 am
I wouldn't mind if the CBD

I wouldn't mind if the CBD had one or two mini parks to go along with the Augusta Common, and Riverwalk.. The idea could be expanded to Olde Town, Harrisburg, East Augusta, Laney Walker, Medical District, Summerville or Midtown, and the Medical District... All of the surrounding areas need to have their own 'entertainment'(bars, restaurants, cafes, coffee shops, etc) outside of the CBD anyway... Kings Way/Central Ave in Midtown, and Monte Sano in Summerville are doing good job in terms of attracting business/foot traffic... Broad street in Harrisburg, Laney Walker Boulevard in Laney Walker, Wrightsboro rd in Bethlehem, RA Dent/Wrightsboro and 15th street in the Medical District, Broad/Greene in Olde Town, and Sand Bar Ferry in East Augusta can repeat the same process.. If you live in the urban core of Augusta you shouldn't have to get in your car in order to experience nightlife... The Medical District will be the next one, and might pass Summerville/Midtown quickly because of the traffic/daytime population.. 20 acres will be developed featuring the first neighborhood Walmart in Georgia, stores, retail, etc along 15th street... Then you have the Foundry Place(3.5 acres: IMO the best project of the six Laney Walker/Bethlehem developments) at RA Dent/Wrightsboro rd bringing retail/office space(1st floor), and single family/townhome/multi family(2nd floor)..

The CBD desperately needs to have a massive park complete with bridges, waterfalls, etc... I'm thinking somewhere probably between Greene/Telfair and Walton Way to further connect the CBD/Medical District...

The 8th street Plaza needs to become a little French Quarter, and the Augusta Common is underused.. Sprint Food & Metro Market is located right next to the Augusta Common, and it's up to the city of Augusta now..

gcap 05/28/12 - 09:52 am
And the marble palace???

Countyman, you see a lot positives and do a good job of imagining what could be. If you were single, almost 60, worked downtown and thinking of abandoning suburbia, what would you suggest for living downtown? Granted, I am not sure I can overcome my disdain for ARC government, but who knows?

omnomnom 05/28/12 - 11:20 am
how on earth did historic

how on earth did historic augusta approve those new windows?

countyman 05/28/12 - 01:07 pm
Enterprise Mill, JB Whites,

Enterprise Mill, JB Whites, Granite Mill, Emporium, Port Royal, Waters Edge, and Broadway in Olde Town are some of the larger residential developments..

You can also contact Haltermann, Rex Properties, or Historic Augusta for additional information.. There's several apts/lofts above the businesses on Broad, homes on Greene/Telfair, and homes converted into multi family on Greene in the CBD..

I would try looking around Olde Town too.. It's not on the level of Summerville yet, but definitely continues to improve daily... Festivals, events, people know each other, and pretty diverse....

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