RB57: If These Walls Could Talk

July 12, 2017
“If These Walls Could Talk”
by Marci White

More than 300 people came out on a sultry Georgia night to hear stories on the theme “If These Walls Could Talk.” The stories were an extraordinary mix of antebellum walls containing romance and Chippendale furniture, Facebook walls, psychiatric hospital walls, dilapidated party-house walls, prison walls and walls haunted by ghosts. It was a night to remember. Thanks to all the storytellers, our co-sponsors the Athens-Clarke Heritage Foundation, and to all the people who came and listened to the stories so raptly.

Adam Hebbard, president of the Athens-Clarke Heritage Foundation, was our convivial emcee for the evening.

Daniel Epting is a 4th-generation Athenian who was raised steeped in Athens history. True to his roots, he restores historical homes, and his home in the historic Boulevard neighborhood is a perennial job-site. Daniel told a short history of some of his preservationist work, including some of the very odd, old things he’s found on job sites.

The mansion at 150 S. Milledge Avenue is currently the sorority house of Alpha Delta Pi, but its history includes the adventures and international intrigues of Ned Hodgson and family, who bought the house in 1906. Tom Hodgson told us the story of his grandparents Ned and Mary Hodgson and the role they and their house played in an unlikely international romance.

When a group of student ballet dancers at UGA left town for a long holiday, they asked Rhett Crowe and her boyfriend to house-sit the antebellum house they were renting. Only after they returned did they ask, “Did you notice anything strange about the house?” Um . . . YES!! This story gave us all the creepy chills.

Riley Kirkpatrick, in his previous life as a non-violent drug offender and addict, got acquainted with the gritty, claustrophobic confines of many county jails. Those walls can tell stories of hard, hard times, sickness and perseverance.

Kristin‘s name was chosen out of the Crackerjack box to tell an impromptu story. She told of being in a locked ward for the mentally ill in New York City with lots of doors, lots of keys. The only thing to do was to be fully herself — to face the fear and boredom and connect with the people stuck there with her.

Lee Epting, a native Athenian responsible for the renovation of many old homes and buildings in our town, told the story of an old woman he knew who was house rich but cash poor and needed to sell her historic mansion. She asked him to help her put on one last dinner party in her beautiful home. The meal had to be perfect in all its particulars. “Yes, ma’am,” he said. Things didn’t turn out as planned, but the dinner party turned out to be unforgettable.

As a freelance journalist, David Ferguson spends a lot of time hanging out with co-workers in online chatrooms and on Facebook walls. He got to be close friends with one coworker, Dan, long before he ever met him in person or even talked on the phone. When Dan’s life started going downhill, David saw it all happening, sometimes even before Dan did. They finally did meet in person but not in the way either of them had planned.

Starting in 1977, Paul Butchart participated in the Athens music scene and laid-back, bohemian lifestyle of the times. In 1980 he moved into a famous party house on Milledge Avenue that he rented from a Latvian immigrant with a mysterious and colorful past: Mr. Antons. Paul lived in the house for 28 years, and his life became intertwined with his eccentric landlord’s.