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Historic house moving to Environmental Center

LAWRENCEVILLE - Gwinnettians might experience some deja vu in 2009, as officials plan to move another historic house along local streets to set it up for tours.

This time, though, the house may be disassembled and rebuilt.

The Chesser-Williams House, which was built in the 1850s on Braselton Highway, was donated to the Gwinnett Environmental and Heritage Center. Officials are working on a plan to move the historic house to the Buford-area museum and nature center.

"I want to make sure that we are very thorough in our approach to historic preservation guidelines and industry standards so that we protect and preserve the historic value of the Chesser-Williams House," the center's director Steve Cannon said, adding that the plans are in the early stages.

According to a report conducted on the I-house, which has a style of two rooms wide and one-room deep, the most significant part of the architecture is the stenciled painting in the interior and exterior, which was created by a German painter in exchange for room and board. The identity of the painter is unknown, the report said.

"It is rare in the 21st century to find 19th century interior decorative painting that has not been covered over with at least one layer of paint or paper, and it is almost impossible to find any visible evidence of original exterior decorative painting. Thus, the original 19th century folk painting in the Chesser-Williams House is a very special treasure for Gwinnett County," Maryellen Higginbotham, curator of the Root House in Cobb County, said in a report. "The Chesser-Williams House decorative painting offers a unique opportunity for heritage education in art, architectural, social and cultural history."

Cannon said the house will likely be moved in early 2009 from its Hog Mountain location to the center.

Once it is reassembled, officials will focus on restoring the interior, including cleaning the painting and installing an HVAC and sprinkler system and putting UV film on the windows to preserve the paint.

Officials also hope to add other buildings, such as a well, outhouse, smokehouse and a kitchen garden, to create an interpretation of farm life. In keeping with the center's mission of preserving the county's heritage, Cannon said the house is the beginning of a "living history area" to teach children and adults about farm life.

When the work is complete, visitors will be able to experience guided tours, with tour guides in period costumes.

The center has set aside about $350,000 for the project, but that would only account for about 10 percent of the funds. The rest would be provided through the center's foundation, corporate donations and volunteer support.

In fact, the Heritage Keepers Club, a volunteer group, has been named a significant partner in providing resources for the program, he said.