Nancy Faye said when she was younger the field behind her childhood home was filled with wild daffodils, roses and irises during the springtime.
“They’d put you out in the morning and you weren’t supposed to come back until the end of the day,” Faye said. “Unfortunately, Aunt Mary thought it was OK to run over all of that with a riding mower and killed them off…horticulture wasn’t her thing.”
Mary Morris, Faye’s aunt and long-time Clarkston resident, died at the age of 104 last November, and the city is now in the process of buying the historic house she lived in her entire life.
Edward Griffin, a great grandson of Morris’ mother whom she cared for until her death, said he remembered visiting his great grandmother’s house on Sundays and holidays. Flipping through an old photo book, Griffin stopped and pointed to a picture of a mule in a field.
“Here’s her brother’s mule, which he named Mary,” Griffin said. “I think it was a dig at her that she was a little bit stubborn.”
Built in the 1850s near the end of the antebellum period, the two-story home sits on the corner of Rowland Street right across from the Clarkston City Hall. The Clarkston City Council approved the purchase of the house at a meeting on March 6.
“We saw it listed and I contacted the agent immediately. I think the asking price was $175,000 and we negotiated it down to $150,000,” Clarkston City Manager Keith Barker said. Barker is now in final closing negotiations for the property and said the city plans to eventually use the home for administrative offices.
“It makes more sense to do this rather than build a new city hall,” Barker said.
Barker said the city will hire an architect to look at the building and decide what cosmetic work needed to be done on the inside, and then solicit bids for the work from local contractors. He estimated the work could cost $350,000-400,000.
“We really want to do all we can to maintain her legacy and the community needs to celebrate that. I had a structural engineer come and look at the house and he said for its age it was in remarkably good condition,” Barker said.
Outside the home, Barker said he hoped to create a memorial garden and an area for residents to use for small gatherings and concerts. Inside, Barker said he wanted to maintain the integrity of the original building and hoped to put in period furniture to match the age of the house.
“It’s our desire to have it eventually be Leadership in Environmental Energy and Design (LEED) certified and on the National Register of Historic Places,” Barker said. LEED certification means a building is designed and operated with as little harm to the environment as possible.
Barker said when restoration is completed the old home will feature a reception area, conference room, kitchen, two large bathrooms and offices for the director of planning and development, the city clerk and the finance officer.
Faye, the executor of Morris’ estate, said she was glad the building was being used by the city rather than being torn down to make way for a commercial property.
“We’re at a point in our family now where the young people are too young to take it over and the old people are too old,” Faye said.