LaFayette officials expect the city’s Main Street and Economic Development Department to move into Chattooga Academy by spring.
Chattooga Academy, built in 1836, is believed to be the state’s oldest remaining brick schoolhouse. The city closed the building about six years ago to restore and rehabilitate it.
LaFayette Historic Preservation Commission Chairman Connie Forester said, “The Main Street program promotes historic preservation as a tool for downtown revitalization.
“I cannot imagine a better place to house a Main Street office than in a building steeped in history and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.”
The nearby antebellum Marsh House, Joe Stock Memorial Park and Foothills Art Gallery draw tourists to LaFayette, Forester said. The academy will also function as a tourism and visitor center, historic site and museum.
The LaFayette City Council, at its regular monthly meeting on Dec. 8, authorized Pointe General Contractors of Chattanooga to complete Phase 3 construction on the historic school, which will include re-pointing the exterior masonry, repairing damaged bricks, rebuilding windows and constructing a wheelchair ramp. Phase 3 work will be funded through Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, or SPLOST.
Phase 2 work to upgrade utilities and to install a HVAC system began in the summer and was funded through a $15,000 department of community affairs local assistance grant. The Georgia Department of Economic Development awarded the project a tourism product development grant for $10,000 to refinish floors, repair plaster, paint and complete other interior finish work to finish Phase 2. Phase 2 work will conclude this month.
LaFayette Downtown Development Authority Chairman Jim Cole said, “The city began working on this project nearly four years ago. The project has received several grants in the past, but now many of those programs have been frozen. I commend the council for going ahead with plans to finish this project.”
Completing Chattooga Academy’s rehabilitation so that the building can be opened as a tourism facility was listed for two months as the top priority by residents who attended a downtown visioning meeting, Cole said.
Preservation Commission member Judy Meeks said, “Many people have fond memories of visiting Katherine Derrick there when the LaFayette Chamber of Commerce had its office there years ago. This building is so beautiful and full of history that I am proud to know the public will soon be able to walk through it again and learn about its history.”
Chattooga Academy, also called Gordon Hall, served as Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg’s headquarters as he prepared for the Battle of Chickamauga. The building’s name was later changed to honor John B. Gordon, who attended the school as a child and went on to serve as a Confederate general, U.S. senator and Georgia governor.
The academy is listed on the (Battle of) Chickamauga Campaign Heritage Trail and the Walking Tour of Historic LaFayette brochures.
Anyone who would like to contribute to the Chattooga Academy project can mail donations to LaFayette City Hall, Attn: Chattooga Academy, P.O. Box 89, LaFayette, Ga., 30728. Donations are tax-deductible.