Greg and Suzanne Lewis consider themselves stewards of an old home that sits just off of Highway 16 in Sharpsburg.
The couple found the home because Greg, who owns a concrete company, was searching for a piece of property to store equipment.
“He found this property and it was on short-sale and the house was pretty uninhabitable,” Suzanne said.
The chimney was peeling off the side of the house, the building had mold and mildew, the floors were bad and there was water underneath and flowing through the house, which also lacked central heating and air.
“There was a pecan tree growing into the house,” Greg said. “They cut a hole in the home to allow this tree to grow. We had to cut it down.”
Greg said at first he wanted to knock the building down, but Suzanne wanted to repair the home.
The house had been in the McDonald family since the 1880s. Before the Lewises bought it, it was owned by Betsye McDonald, who sold it in 2015. She said five generations of her family have lived in the home.
McDonald said she lived in the house until she was married, and returned to it after she was divorced.
“It was in my life all those years,” she said.
The house remained in the McDonald family until she decided to sell it to be with her son in Mexico, who was sick at the time.
Her son passed away before she could leave the U.S., McDonald said, but she decided to continue with her move and sell the property.
“It was just too much and it needed repairs and I just couldn’t do it,” she said. “A cousin in my family wanted to buy it and started doing renovations and realized it was too much for them.”
McDonald said several family members urged her to keep the home, but she was looking for a fresh start.
“Along the way we fell in love with it,” Greg said. “You can feel this vibe – the history that’s in this place. There’s something about it that made it feel comfortable.”
“You can feel it go through you when you walk into the place,” Suzanne said.
A Home of History
The Lewises were not the first people to feel that way about the home.
“My mother had a friend who was in Auschwitz,” McDonald said. “When she came into this house, she said she felt like she was home. I heard so many people say that about this house.”
When they purchased the property, the Lewises said they did as much of the work as they could on their own. They repaired the chimney, the floors, the roof, added a bathroom and refurbished the home.
“We’re not independently wealthy people. I’m a massage therapist and he’s got a concrete company,” Suzanne said.
“I finish driveways, man,” Greg said.
Greg said the home’s warm feeling made the couple want to share it however they could.
“We were trying to put some more life back in it,” Suzanne said. “I love old things. I just think they’ve got such character and stories and you can feel the love someone has put into them.”
During their time repairing the home, the Lewises did a deep dive into its history. Through research, they found the original deed for the land, which dates back to 1836.
“The land was purchased on the land lottery when the Indians were run off in The Trail of Tears,” Greg said.
One room in the house is 25 years older than the rest of the building, said Suzanne.
There’s a story of the house from 1893 where William H. Parks and Henrietta North were hit by a train while crossing the tracks in a stagecoach. The Lewises said the two were brought into the McDonald home, which was nearby.
“They both died, but their blood is stained on the floor,” Greg said.
As he and his wife spent more time visiting the property, the Lewises became friends with McDonald, which led to their decision to save the building rather than knock it down.
“It was just a natural sisterhood – an affinity for each other – and how could I not save this house after that?” Suzanne said.
McDonald said she felt the same way when she met Suzanne.
“She said to me that when she first came in the house she felt just a feeling of warmth,” McDonald said. “She had to have it and she said when I met her it was just an immediate connection. And it was. It was a divine and spiritual thing. I really feel that.”
Coming Home Again
After the sale and after McDonald moved, the two women kept in touch.
Earlier this month, McDonald returned to Coweta County for a family reunion. When she told Suzanne, the Lewises offered to host the family reunion in the home.
McDonald said she wasn’t worried about the house feeling foreign or different when she returned.
“Some people said, ‘Well, you know the furniture is different.’ And the furniture may be different, but I know how I’m going to feel, and it feels like home,” she said.
Approximately 50 people across five generations came together at the former McDonald home last Saturday.
“We don’t know any of these people,” Greg said. “They’re having a family reunion and what better place to come? They had such memories of this place.”
“I think so much has gone on here and there’s a feeling of comfort and love. That’s how my mother wanted people to feel at this home,” McDonald said. “It’s just something special about this place.”