'To become the gateway to our town'
Duluth Historical Society wants Strickland House

DULUTH - The Duluth Historical Society is asking the city to join in a fundraising campaign to acquire the historic Strickland House as a museum and welcome center.

"We want to preserve the house and want it to become the gateway to our town," Duluth Historical Society President Judy Ann Wilson said.

The 110-year-old plantation-style house was home to the late Duluth Mayor Alice Harrell Strickland and is still owned by the Strickland family. Located at 2956 Buford Highway, the house is listed for sale at $3 million. It sits on three acres of land.

Strickland, a widow, became the first female mayor in Georgia when she was elected to lead Duluth at the age of 62 in 1921, only a year after women gained the right to vote.

Wilson presented the partnership proposal to the Duluth City Council during a recent work session. Under the proposal the society, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, would purchase and operate the house as the Duluth History Museum and as a visitor and information center for the city. There also is a possibility the society could lease the house, she said. The council took her request under advisement for further discussion.

"We're not just asking for money," Wilson said. "In return, we would share the city's history and promote its businesses and attractions."

The facility would be used for community activities and educational programs and provide much-needed additional parking in the city, Wilson said. Acquiring the house would allow the museum to expand its collection, charge an entrance fee and operate a gift shop selling items pertinent to Duluth and its history, she said.

The Duluth History Museum is located in the old City Hall Annex on W. Lawrenceville Street. The annex is slated to be demolished as part a downtown revitalization program.

"We have no place to go. If we don't find another home for the museum, the artifacts will have to be put in storage," Wilson said.

The Strickland House campaign has been designated as the beneficiary of funds from "Dog Days of Duluth," an outdoor exhibit of artistically decorated dog sculptures to be displayed downtown from July through the Duluth Fall Festival in September. The exhibit is being organized by the Red Clay Theatre and Arts Center. Wilson indicated she is approaching the fall festival and other entities for funds.

The society already has established a fund at Gwinnett Community Bank for donations to acquire the Strickland House. Eventually, the society plans to host its own fundraisers and generate revenue by renting the house and grounds for special events, Wilson said. Acquiring the house would facilitate applying for grants, she said.

The society's move into the house in its present state would be a "turnkey operation," Wilson said. "It has been maintained by the Strickland family in amazing condition."

The Strickland House was listed on the Georgia Register of Historic Places in 1999.

Strickland herself designed the stately home. She and her husband, Henry Strickland Jr., a lawyer, completed the house in 1898 and raised seven children in it. He died at the age of 55 in 1915 leaving her with two children still at home.

She continued to live in the home after her husband's death and opened the second floor of the home for use as a prenatal clinic and children's surgical facility. An ardent conservationist, Strickland later donated a portion of her land for Georgia's first community forest.

Born in 1859, Strickland lived until 1947. She was named to the distinguished roster of Georgia Women of Achievement in 2002.