Thursday, July 11, 2024

Kitchen Light Painting

Kitchen Light, Portrait of the Artist's Father, is a large acrylic painting by D.K. Pritchett. In another blog, The Talking Artist, I have more of my art and thoughts about art. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Slight Changes in the Way We Post Messages

We have changed our site host. Southern Muse is now hosted by Blogger. Google's hosting tools are still causing some conflicts. We must work that out over time. 

Monday, February 11, 2019

The Old Rock Building in Chatsworth, Georgia

The old rock building, a historic site in Chatsworth, Georgia, was built in 1934 as the first consolidated high school of Murray County. The building is special to the community as an historic and architectural landmark. It is on the National Register of Historic Places as the Murray County High School Historic District. The architectural style is arts and crafts or American Craftsman. It is built of native stone from the nearby mountains. The building was officially named as the V.C. Pickering Administrative Center in 2005, prior to Phase I of its renovation. A year or so later, it received a new roof, but then was severely damaged by fire in 2009. The Old Rock Building was fully renovated in 2010 and now serves as the central offices of Murray County Schools.

The building is significant as the first consolidated high school in Murray County, Georgia. It replaced three small high schools: Lucy Hill, Chatsworth, and Eton High Schools. In 2002 it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Interestingly, before the new rock high school was even completed, one of the older schools, Chatsworth High, was struck by lightning and burned. Consolidating the schools was a controversial move and caused some squabbling among the various towns, several of which hoped to have the high school in their own community.

Front view of the rock building from Green Road

A side view of the old rock building

Besides being an early consolidated high school, the rock building is also significant for its architecture and stone masonry. The building is made of grayish brown mountain rock that is native to the area. The stone was blasted from the mountains during the construction of the Chatsworth-Ellijay Highway and was donated to the School Board at the request of V.C. Pickering. Local truckers hauled them to the site for fifty cents a load. Mr. Watkins was the head stone mason on the project. The natural stone and unique facade make it one of the most attractive buildings in the county, and one of only a handful of such stone buildings in North Georgia. The surrounding landscape is set off by the cobalt blue of the Cohutta mountains. These features make the building a favorite landmark, much loved by the local community.

The blood, sweat, and tears of the local people went into building this beloved old structure. Some of the men who worked on it were lucky to have completed the third grade, and they wanted their children to have better opportunities than they had had. Perhaps that's why the generation who built it, and their children, were so affectionate toward the old school. This quaint little plaque, inscribed by hand by one of the workers, is a token of that affection. It says simply, "Built 1934 MCHS." To me, the plaque itself is a pretty little piece of folk art...

History of the Old Rock Building

The building was completed as a project of the 1930's Works Progress Administration of the government. According to a 1934 article in Dalton Citizen, over 55 local men were put to work on the project. Workers received one dollar per day and stone masons, two dollars. (The school board later raised this amount and paid hourly wages of up to fifty cents.) V.C. Pickering, a prominent citizen of the county, was instrumental in getting the high school built, obtaining the stone and donating $5,000 and 164 acres of land to the school board; hence, the building's new name, the V.C. Pickering Administrative Center. Other funding came from the state and the Board of Education.

Renovation began on the building in 2005. The plan was to make it the new headquarters for the central office of the Murray County school system. A group of alumni began a fund to help pay for renovations. The Rock Building Committee oversaw fundraising efforts, supported by various local organizations, including the Murray County High School Alumni Association and Whitfield-Murray Historical Society. Various class reunions of the era also raised money for the renovation. The building was given a new roof in 2004, during Phase I of the renovation.

Fire Damages the Old Rock Building

On October 26, 2009, lightning struck the building during a mid-morning thunderstorm. The strike was detected by a  The building smoldered for several hours before breaking out in flames. Though firefighters arrived very quickly, the building was already fully engulfed. The fire devastated the building, destroying the new roof, gutting the interior, and causing severe damage to the exterior stone walls and facade. Early reports called the building a complete loss.

Engineers determined that the building could be saved. The building was fully covered under an insurance policy that made rebuilding more feasible than demolition, so the controversial decision was made to renovate the old rock building. Renovation began in 2010. By 2011, the building was serving as offices for the school system.

On September 26, 2009, during heavy storms and flash flooding, lightning struck the old rock building in Chatsworth, Georgia, causing a devastating fire. The loud clap of thunder that came with the strike was heard and felt for miles. The direct hit of lightning was documented by an Arizona company that monitors storms around the country. News of the disaster came to Murray Countians as some were battling water from heavy rains and flash floods from the overflowing Conasauga River and area creeks. The fire destroyed the new roof, gutted the interior, and caused severe damage to the exterior stone walls. Renovation of the structure was already in progress even before the fire, so the damage came as a double blow to those concerned in the project. The building had recently received a new roof.

After the fire, community and school-board members held public forums to discuss the future of the building. The general sentiment among the public was to save the structure if at all possible, though there was some dissent. The building was insured and engineering reports showed that rebuilding was feasible. To those of us who love the old building, it seemed almost impossible, even miraculous, to think that this phoenix could once again rise out of the ashes, but it did. Renovation began in 2010 and was completed by 2011. The building is once again a landmark.

Murray County Museum (a virtual museum) has articles about the school. It has some photos of the fire (down toward the bottom of the page).


Phase I of the Rock Building Renovation, before the fire, had put a new roof on the old rock building. After the fire, it appeared that all the hard work was in vain. First reports indicated that the building might have to be demolished. The local school board, citizens, and builders met to discuss options. Feelings were mixed, as some citizens felt that the building could not be saved; some thought that it might be saved, but that attempts to renovate would be too costly; and others felt that it should not be saved ~ that taxpayer funds would be best used elsewhere. In the event that the building could not be saved, general sentiment leaned toward building a memorial park, pavilion, or monument from some of the stone. Further studies were done to determine which options were feasible. The terms of the insurance made rebuilding more cost-effective than demolition. Engineers determined that the structure could be saved, so the decision was made to renovate. Once the renovation was complete, the building was dedicated for use as the central office.

Rock Building Information

The V.C. Pickering Administrative Center, or "Old Rock Building," as it is more affectionately called, serves as the central offices for Murray County Schools. The building is located on Green Road in Chatsworth, Georgia, and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It was built in 1934 and was in continuous use until the 1980s by Murray County High and later, Bagley Middle School. The building was devastated by fire in 2009, after a direct hit by lightning, and was renovated in 2010.

Our beloved "Old Rock Building" is located at 1004 Green Street, Chatsworth, Georgia. The site is included on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, as part of the Murray County High School Historic District (added 2004, no. 04000628)

Murray County, Georgia, as featured in the National Register of Historic Places...

References to Related Articles (links not available):

"Fundraisers to start to save rock building" Daily Citizen, Dalton, Georgia: Wednesday, October 12, 2005, page A1, article by Misty Watson. 

The Works Progress Administration connection to the stone building was mentioned in an article on Murray County on-line at New Georgia Encyclopedia. The old link is no longer extant. The National Register of Historic Places (Murray Co., GA) shows this property as: Murray County High School Historic District (added 2004 - District - #04000628).

The old rock building was mentioned under North Georgia, Murray County History, at Georgia Magazine (accessed 17 October 2005). 

This article was written in 2006. It was first published on my main website, Southern Muse (Southern It was updated on that original website in 2012, and republished here on February 11, 2019.