Pomegranate Hall

Pomegranate Hall [c. 1830], Sparta, GA [Hancock County] 2008

Pomegranate Hall was built in the 1830s by Judge Nathan Sayre and is located where Elm Street (which runs south from Broad Street) dead-ends on Adams Street. At the time, the house was painted a "monastic brown"which gave it a distinct Mediterranean appearance, and was sitting on several acres of lush Georgia land.

The house is made of granite (possibly coming from Elberton, GA) and brick with walls two feet thick. The main floor consisted of an elaborate entrance hall, two reception rooms and Judge Sayre's extensive library. Features like marble mantles and silver bells and knobs gave it a sophisticated urban rather than rustic feel. The multi-level house has many entrances, stairs and cul-de-sacs, and in the back, the house is three stories high. Underneath the front porch, barely visible today due to the heavy vegetation, is another entrance leading into the the brick-floored ground level. The house was generally referred to as a "half house" but it is unclear if it was due to the fact that its entrance was to the side rather than at the center, or if it shared materials such as shutters and doors with the Sayre home in Newark, NJ.

The original stair case led up to the center of the front porch, and was later moved to the right side of the house.
A guest at the house in 1839 described her upstairs room as "delightfully situated; our windows attracted all the breezes and commanded imposing and beautiful views of the whole town and surrounding country".

On an interesting side note, Nathan Sayre was one of few people of his time who challenged the racial color code. Although he never married, he had several children with one of his slave women and later lived with but never married Susan Hunt, who was part Cherokee, African, and Caucasion. They raised their three children here at Pomegranate Hall. In his library, Sayre kept books that argued AGAINST the then common belief that racially mixed offspring inevitably is degenerate and physically inferior. It is believed that the complicated layout of the house was to support the equally complicated family dynamics.

After Judge Sayre's death in 1853, the house was bought by the Simpson family who owned it when diarist Frances Andrews stayed here shortly after Sherman had burned down everything a few miles south. The house then went to Judge Seaborn Reese who later replaced Alexander H. Stephens, native of nearby Crawfordville, GA, as congressman. In 1963, the widow of Oliver Macy (of the Macy's Department Store family) moved in and lived here until she died in the fall of 1992. The next owner was Emily K. Hair, widow of the late historian Dr. William Ivy Hair. In 2003, current owner Jerry Erickson bought the house from Steve Hair, who had inherited it from his late mother.

According to Jerry Erickson and several Sparta residents, Ms. Hair in 1999 or 2000 was burning her son's clothes on his bed; the story is that he had a drug problem and burning his clothes was her way of dealing with it. Unfortunately, the fire spread from the bedroom down the stairwell and into the furnace, finally engulfing the entire upper floor. It's amazing that the house still stands. The photo on the right, taken in February 2008, shows the three-story back of the house and the fire damage.

Restoring a historic building in compliance with city codes and codes that apply to historic structures is very expensive, and Mr. Erickson is doing his best to preserve the home while applying for funds and grants which is a tedious process. There is no estimate at this time as to when restoration of Pomegranate Hall will be resumed and/or completed.

2 comments:

  1. My father grew up here in the 40s and 50s. He loved all the secret passages. I plan on showing it to my children in the near future.

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