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The Mystery Building

Mvstery seems to surround the history of the Newton County Chamber of Commerce Building located at 2100 Washington Street in Covington, Georgia. From its construction until the present day very 1 ittle recorded information is in existence although the owners of the house have been prominent Covington residents. Although the ownership of the house can be traced through public record and news publications, the actual useage of the house is left to the researcher’s imagination and speculation based on the surrounding environment, historical events and the various occupations of the owners.

The earliest recorded information shows the purchase of the site which included the entire present city block by Mr.E. B. Rosser. The block was transfered to Mr. Rosser on February 23, 1869 for the sum of $850. Mr. Rosser was a businessman who went into partnership with Colonel W.W. Clark, a lawyer and director of the Georgia Railroad and Banking Company. The partners began the firm of Clark, Rosser and Company around 1874 for the purpose of storing, shipping and selling cotton for the farmers of the area. Records also show that Mr. Rosser was an incorporating member of the Covington Savings Bank which survived only a short period of time following its inception in 1877. At some point during the time period of 1869 to 1883 a house was constructed on the city block with its facade facing Clark Street. The tax records show that Mr. Rosser sold the site and a house to Mr. Arthur Benjamin Simms for the sum of
$1200 in 1883.

The Simms family owned the property and the house from 1883 to 1887 although research into the family history would seem to indicate that the house was not used as a family residence. Arthur Benjamin Simms was born in 1842 to Richard L. Sims and Jerustha Bonner who were residing in Oxford, Georgia. A. B.’s father, Richard, was a judge, Commissioner of Covington and Oxford, a lawyer and real estate investor. His mother, formerly of Clarke County, was a homemaker and mother of five children. The Simms family moved to their home on Floyd Street in the house located adjacent to the First Baptist Church and is currently known as the Simms-Ginn house. Arthur Benjamin served honorably in the Civil War, was taken prisoner, and released at the end of the conflict. Upon his return he studied law with Judge John J. Floyd and subsequently engaged in a law partnership with his brother, James. The law practice was located in the building which currently houses Peoples Drugstore, Victoria’s and etc. He is shown on the 1870 residents’ 1 ist for the Simms House Hotel (location not specified). In 1878 he married Sarah Shelton Terrell Jackson of Greene County and moved into the Floyd Street home with his mother, Upon her death he purchased his siblings’ interest in the home and remained in residence until his death in 1887. A. B. Simms, known as Ben, served as a Representative in the Georgia General Assembly (1873-4), Mayor of Covington, Trustee of the Southern Masonic Female College, and the committee to build the Newton County Courthouse and jail. Additionally, he was reponsible for the building of the current Masonic Building which houses Jackqueline’s Bakery, Dobbs Optometry and etc. No record exists of his occupation of the Washington Street property. Upon his death in 1887, the house was sold to Dr. N. Z. Anderson. At this time period, the western block of the Covington Square was businesses with boarding houses and hotels extending down Washington Street and Clark ta the northwest. Therefore a case could be made that the property was either purchased for leasing or operated as a boarding house.

Dr. N. Z. Anderson, 1871-1955, was a physician, real estate owner, Vice President of the Bank of Covington, and President of the First National Bank. He was the son of Colonel Newton Anderson who served as the sheriff of Newton County during the mid eighteen hundreds. Dr. Anderson purchased the house and the ground upon which it was located with the remainder of the block being divided for other business. Possibly a portion of the site became the location of the Pitts House Hotel which is described as being in operation at the northwest corner of Hendricks Street and Washington Street. This hotel was still in operation in 1916 and expanded to become the Flowers Hotel Annex. The Jones House Hotel is thought to have been located at the north side of Clark Street and Hendrix Street. Very
1 ittle is known about the surrounding property and it is certain that Dr. Anderson did not reside or practice on the property. The first individual to occupy the house, Wolf Cohen, purchased the house from Dr. Anderson in 1907.

While the history of Cohen’s Clothing Store owned by Abe Cohen and Wolf Cohen is documented extensively through advertisements and newsworthy events such as a damaging fire, the history of the house remains obscure during this time period. However, it is known that Mr. Cohen? a native of Prussia, accomplished the major feat of reassembling the entire block of land. Although the year is not known, Mr. Cohen during the period of purchase in 1907 and his death in Baltimore in 1933 turned the house from its frontal orientation on Clark Street to a position of fronting on Washington Street. COf note is the fact that the original address of the house may or may not have been Clark Street since Washington Street, Clark Street and Floyd Street were often confused until the streets were officially named in 1889.) This was during a time period when moving houses was a somewhat popular pastime. Mr. Cohen’s family sold the house which was purchased for $1500 in 1907 for $4500 in 1924. The cost of reassembling the surrounding land is not known. Once again Dr. N. Z. Anderson with a partner, N. Kaplan, purchased the house and land.
Dr. Anderson and N. Kaplan are shown as the owners of record from 1924 to 1940. During this time the house was operated as an apartment house. Many families in this town have relatives who at one time or another resided in the house. The house and plot was sold to the J. 0. Allen family around 1940.

Mr. J. W. Allen and his family owned and operated Allen’s $0.10 Store on the Square in the block which now houses Mayfield’s Ace Hardware. The Allen family relocated to Acworth and subsequently sold the house to Joseph Byron Mobley in 1978. Mr. and Mrs. Allen began renovations which the Mobley family continued.

 

Mr. Mobley was the first resident who felt that peculiar influences were operating within the house. One cold night he returned to check the heating in the unoccupied house since he was concerned about the cold conditions and the state of the plumbing. As he checked the house he felt uneasy with a state of     chill and his hair tensed, As he turned toward the kitchen, his impression 1s that the apparition of a woman appeared. Mr. Mobley is a very rational person and feels reluctant to relate this story due to the skepticism with which such experiences are often viewed. He was not able to offer a more detailed description of the apparition.

 

Ghostly appearances and mysterious noises plagued the next owners, Neal and Terri Lange. The Langes purchased the house in 1983 with the dream of operating a restaurant and family residence. Mr. Lange related stories of hearing 111m2ird footsteps” ancl strange noisEis for whict-1 t’. rational explanation could not be found. However their dream of a restaurant collapsed and the Langes sold the house in 1984.

 

From 1984 until the Chamber of Commerce began their occupancy of the building a succession of owners attempted to utilize the building as a commercial venture. These owners were: 1984, The Countryside Corporation and Mary Ann Whitsitt; 1984, Jane Osborne; and 1988, Jerry Gafford.  In 1988 NevJton Federc1.l, 51s the lending institution for the property, foreclosed on the house and lot. Finally a permanent and nurturing occcupant was  found for the house in 1992 when the Newton County Chamber of Commerce established their office in the building at 2100 Washington Street.

Extensive renovations were completed with the financial aid and aesthetic advice of Covington and Newton County benefactors. Today the building is a tribute to the members of the community who saw not what had been but what could be and worked to restore the house of the mysterious past.

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