Owner keeps up home's history

The dining room and parlor have barely changed since presidents and golf legends were entertained there long ago -- and Levi Hill likes it that way.

"All the wood in here is original," said Mr. Hill, whose Johns Road home has been in his family since 1958, when it was bought by his parents. "We have tried to keep it just like it was."

The home was honored this week as a recipient of one of Historic Augusta Inc.'s annual stewardship awards recognizing those who preserve and maintain significant historic properties.

Built in 1905 on the site of an earlier home dating to the early 19th century, the Hill house was once owned by attorney Joseph R. Lamar, who became a U.S. Supreme Court justice, according to Erick Montgomery, Historic Augusta's executive director.

Mr. Lamar's wife turned the property into a bird sanctuary, planted unusual shrubs and trees and often fed mockingbirds through large, open windows in the sitting room.

Visitors there included Presidents Wilson and Taft, who appointed Mr. Lamar to the Supreme Court.

After the Lamars left Augusta for Washington, the home was owned by Fielding Wallace, a founding member of Augusta National Golf Club, whose guests included the Duke of Windsor, Bobby Jones and many others who came to Augusta for early Masters Tournaments.

The property, according to old deeds, was once owned by George Walton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Although records are unclear, a home existed on the site in the early 19th century.

Mr. Hill has spent a half-century enjoying the old home and its brick basement with multiple rooms and fireplaces, believed to be a component of the 19th-century structure that preceded the current house.

The basement's origins, he said, remain shrouded in mystery.

"With all these fireplaces, I'm sure someone lived down here."

Maintaining such an old home has its challenges, but Mr. Hill and his family have continued to resist the temptation to change its design.

A few years ago, workers used a pressure washer to prepare the house for painting and broke 32 of the vintage window panes with wavy, blown glass. "It was a lot of trouble, but we finally found a place in Pennsylvania that could get that glass for us," he said.

Responsible stewardship of historic properties, he added, is an unspoken obligation of those who own them.

"It's part of the history of this area," he said. "It would be terrible to lose a house like this. It's important for a community to have a connection with the past."

Reach Rob Pavey at 868-1222, ext. 119 or rob.pavey@augustachronicle.com.