Goodale investors plan to restore 1799 'masterpiece'

It has been called many things over its 210 years, but its newest owner just calls it haunted -- and therein lies the charm.

"It's a historical masterpiece," said Wes Sims, who is buying the perennially vacant Goodale House off Sandbar Ferry Road. "It especially fascinates me that it is a haunted house."

The Birmingham, Ala., investor first heard of the former inn from an auction Web site. After a few visits -- the first of which was on Halloween -- he and his brother Aaron decided to buy it.

"It has great history -- built by one of the founders of Augusta," he said.

Built in 1799 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976 as the Fitzsimmons-Hampton House, the Federal-style, multistory building has a most unusual pedigree, according to research compiled by Historic Augusta Inc.

The surrounding area -- now flanked by Bobby Jones Expressway and mammoth chemical factories across Sandbar Ferry Road, was once a 500-acre plantation established by Thomas Goodale in 1740. Mr. Goodale operated the Sandbar Ferry at the nearby river crossing, in addition to a restaurant and inn, according to early historical accounts.

In 1799, the year the home was built, the site was sold to a Charleston, S.C., merchant named Christopher Fitzsimmons, who later gave the home to his daughter's new husband, Wade Hampton Jr. His son, Wade Hampton III, would later become governor of South Carolina.

Mr. Sims said the house definitely has a presence that warrants further exploration of its paranormal potential.

"When we were outside, driving around to take pictures, we saw a silhouette of what looked like a little girl in the window of the third story," he said. "Then it backed away. My jaw just dropped. It was exciting."

There were also curious noises from the ancient attic -- and at least one door that keeps turning up open, even when it has been properly closed.

Greg Honeymichael, an agent with Meybohm Realtors who is listing the 1.9-acre site, said the sale will be completed within a few weeks.

The house was used as a restaurant in the 1970s and early 1980s and was priced in the $250,000 range several years ago, said Gwen Fulcher Young, whose real estate company previously listed the site.

Such a sum, she added, was unrealistic because of its condition and location.

After failing to sell, and two foreclosures in previous owners, it became much more attractively priced, she said. "After the last foreclosure it was down to something like $29,900."

Mr. Sims said the current selling price is less than $20,000 and a great deal. He hopes to restore the house and might someday explore uses that could include a bed and breakfast or a private home.

"We've looked at several ideas," he said. "I could definitely see this house being on one of those ghost hunter shows, too." he said.

Mrs. Young, who showed the house numerous times over several years, said she was unaware that it might be haunted.

"When I was in there, nothing ever grabbed me," she said. "Except the asking price."

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