History on the move
170-year-old building relocated from Sugarloaf's path

LAWRENCEVILLE - Kevin Shaw watched with interest Thursday as a log cabin rolled up Ga. Highway 20 on the back of a flat-bed truck.

"I'm just watching for it to fall. It looks kind of wobbly," the Lawrenceville man said as he pumped gas.

But the 25-foot-by-12-foot 170-year-old commissary made it safely to its new home on the Lawrenceville Square. In a matter of weeks, the much larger Isaac-Adair House will travel the same path, as officials situate the buildings as a new history museum for the county.

It's not the first move for the old buildings.

In 1984, Phyllis and Marvin Hewatt fell in love with the old house, which was set to be demolished to make room for a shopping center at the corner of Pike Street and Hurricane Shoals Road.

The couple labeled the boards, dismantled the house and rebuilt it - a job that took 15 years - on Chandler Road.

But last year, the family learned the house was in the path of a planned extension to Sugarloaf Parkway. Because it was on the National Register for Historic Places, though, the county was obligated to save the relic.

"It's somebody's heritage. They need to do that," said Kim Buttery, as she watched the commissary's move Thursday. "There's a lot of history going with this building."

Buttery, who lives in a 100-year-old home nearby herself, said she was glad to hear of the project.

According to park planner Bette Conaway, the commissary's move cost $21,000, but the house's trip about three miles on Grayson Highway will be much trickier. For that, officials are coordinating to interrupt utilities because wires and traffic signals will have to come down. That move has a $41,000 price tag, not counting the utility costs.

Months ago, the buildings were put on temporary foundations - at a cost of about $57,000 - so construction on the extension could begin. The path from Ga. Highway 20 to New Hope Road is expected to open in late 2009, and officials are beginning preliminary work on a second phase, according to a transportation official.

Conaway said she hopes to hold a planning meeting next month to devise ways to open the museum to the public.

"It's really a valuable piece of Gwinnett's history," Conaway said of the house. "It's the best project I've had in a long time."

The moving costs were covered as part of the Gwinnett Department of Transportation's $23.5 million contract for the road construction, but officials hope to secure funding to complete the museum plans with a renewal of the county's penny sales tax during a vote in November.

"I'm glad to see the tax dollars at work," Lawrenceville resident Sid Mealor said.

A Gwinnett native, Mealor said he believes the project is worthwhile, not only to preserve the house but to place another attraction in the revitalized county seat.

"We sometimes forget about our heritage, and I'm glad to see that happen," he said. On the Isaac-Adair House, he added, "When they built that house, they probably had no idea it would travel as much as it has."