Saving Home: Group works to sell historic site

The community is in danger of losing one of its historic buildings.

One group remains determined to save it.

Located at 915 N. Oak St., the John Nelson Deming House waits for occupants. The home erected in 1898 has sat empty for more than a decade and landed on the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation’s 2020 list of “places in peril.”

Vickie Everitte, a volunteer with the Valdosta Heritage Foundation, is part of a group working to find a home for this house.

What makes the two-story house unique, she said, is two things: this being one of three local homes with a Carolina porch and being built by John Nelson Deming.

A Carolina porch, also known as a rain porch, is where columns for the porch roof are not attached to the porch floor. This allows for the roof to extend out farther and keep water off people on the porch.

“On a rainy day, it was enjoyable to sit outside,” said James Horton, historic preservation planner for the City of Valdosta. “You didn’t want to get wet.”

Before air-conditioning, it was commonplace for folks to flee the heat inside their homes and enjoy the coolness on their porch.

“The house would hold heat for 10 hours,” Horton said. “When it got cool outside, all the stuff in the house would still be hot for 10 hours before it would cool off. So you wanted to be out here.”

In addition to the Carolina porch, the house was built by carpenter Deming, famous for his many homes built in the late 1800s and early 1900s with the crown jewel being The Crescent.

The John Nelson Deming House and The Crescent share one major things in common: lumber.

The lumber used to build the house is supposed to be leftover wood from The Crescent, Horton said.

U.S. Sen. William Stanley West who built The Crescent wanted it to be perfect, Horton explained, and so West decided to dry his lumber a year.

“He had his lumber cut from his own timber land, and he had it cut and put it in a warehouse to dry for a year,” he said.

An uncommon practice, according to Horton, West’s yearlong drying process mightily reduced the chance of boards shrinking or shifting over time.

“He didn’t want to hear a ‘squeak squeak.’ He wanted it to be perfect,” Horton said.

Nancy DeRuyter Warren, a member of the investment group that owns the house, was able to see the inside of the home Friday.

“It’s structurally so well maintained that I’m more excited than ever about someone who will love it and restore it,” she said.

The investment group has listed the house for $99,000 and hopes for a family to occupy the house for the first time in more than a decade. If a family can’t, they’re open to other possibilities.

“It’s a blank canvas for someone who loves it. I would love to have somebody come and make it their family home,” she said. “I’m realistic enough to know that someone might want to use it for an office space. … This would also be an awesome wedding venue or event venue or even a wonderful location for the city or the county.”

If the house goes unsold and transitions from “peril” to “extinct,” a little piece of local history will go down along with it.

“If this house fell down, lost, was destroyed, we would lose part of our history about the development of Valdosta,” Everitte said.

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