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Bimonthly Article 

Concord Historic District In Danger
May & June, 2006

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Pat Burns Roche and her husband Dr. Robert Roche are members of the Smyrna Historical and Genealogical Society - and have been May, 1989. The family lives in the National and Cobb County Register house that is known as Henry Clay Ruff, or "the miller's House" at the Concord Covered bridge.Concord Historic District In Danger
She stated that one day she was looking out a window in her house and noticed a survey team in her yard. On questioning the survey party members she learned that the DOT is planning to replace the one lane bridge on Concord Road that spans the Silver Comet Trail and leads directly to the one lane Concord Covered Bridge.

After she contacted the Cobb DOT she received a form letter from Bryant Poole, district engineer for the Georgia DOT stating the DOT had a right to be on thei land. She said "This letter came after the surveyors had already been on the job and in our front yard for several weeks. Not until I found them in the back yard did I realize the scope of the project". The description of the existing bridge, as given in the Survey Report (GDOT Project CSBRG-0006-00(325) Cobb Cobb County is: "GDOT Bridge 067-5082-0 is a 3-span, 56 foot-long timber stringer bridge. Its wood plank deck is supported on timber pile bents with cross bracing. The bridge is located on the edge of the eligible Concord Bridge/Ruff's Mill Historic District.

The recently constructed East-West connector is located approximately 400 feet to the north of the bridge." The report is one that is required as a part of Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966.

The report as prepared by the DOT, says that the subject one lane bridge itself is not eligible for the national register under the three prescribed criteria. It only dates to the 1940's and was constructed to replace an existing bridge over the former Seaboard Airline Railway ( editor added: "which dates to
the late 1800's"). The report goes on to say: "The immediate vicinity is characterized by residential development dating from the 1960's to the 2000's" The report didn't say that the closest re-sidences to the bridge are the Henry Clay Ruff (miller's) House and the John W. Rice Rock House The report just said those properties are located within the Historic District.

The bridge the DOT is considering for replacement is the single lane one into the main section of the two residences mentioned, along with the Daniel/Ruff Grist Mill that is also located within a few feet of the one lane Concord Covered bridge. That bridge could very well be named "Gateway to the 19th Century".
Also located nearby are the ruins of the Concord Woolen Mill which originally dated to the late 1840's, and the completely restored home of John Gann, Cobb's first State Senator. That house dates to the 1840's and is located on the western side of the Covered Bridge. It is on the Cobb Register of Historic places.

The Section 106 report said "there are no known associations with individuals whose specific contributions to history can be identified and documented with this property". If this test were applied to a single isolated structure in every historic district, it is likely that nothing would ever be eligible.
As mentioned, the house was originally owned by Senator John Gann. In the last 30 years or so of the 19th century, it was owned by S. B. Love, one of the proprietors of the Concord Woolen Mills, for whom Love Street in Smyrna is named.

O
ther people of note who were associated with the area, and its development as one of the first "industrial complexes in Cobb County, although not that particular bridge, were the partners of Mr. Love, Zachary A, and John W. Rice and James A Porter. They acquired the Woolen Mills in the early 1870's and operated it until just after the turn of the century in 1900's when they sold it to Annie E. Gillespie Johnson.
Mrs. Johnson's husband was J. Lindsey Johnson, a lawyer, planter, state legislator and publisher of the Rome Tribune. After his death she ran the newspaper, but was unable to keep the woolen mills in operation due to changing technology.

She also purchased "the rock house from John W. Rice and her son lived in it for a while.
More recently, in the 1930's it was the childhood home of Agnes Louise Bradford Barnes - the mother of former Georgia Governor Roy Barnes.

Cobb county is currently the home of hundreds, maybe thousands, of descendants of the Daniell, Ruff, Rice, and Barnes family pioneers who were and are still associated with the area, although, not that particular 56 foot long bridge.

The removal of the one lane bridge and its replacement would cause Concord Road to be closed for an extended period of time and a five-mile detour for regular users of the bridge.

In response to Cobb Commission Chairman Sam Olen's inquiry after he was alerted to the proposed bridge construction, Cobb DOT Director David Montanye said: "This is not the "historic" covered bridge. We have met with the community and they desire a two lane bridge". Pat Burns Roche, who lives in the "Henry Clay Ruff (miller's) House said in an email to Harold Smith, "No, I was not aware of any meeting with the "community. I met with David Jackson and our neighbors the McCutcheons who live in the Peaster house aka the rock house. I did not endorse a new 2 lane bridge, but was told by Jackson that a two lane bridge is always built as a replace-ment bridge according to law or mandate or something".

Montanye's response to the inquiry about the unfinished Heritage Park pro-ject which was mandated at the time the East West Connector was constructed was: "Heritage Park was a very successful mitigation project for the EW Connector. Parks has additional work in its master plan for future upgrades."

The first public hearing on the plans for Heritage Park at the Smyrna Library on September 17, 1996 was conducted by members of the Cobb Land Trust and the Engineering firm of Roberts and Company. They provided the conceptual plans for the park. It was also an official meeting of the Smyrna Historical Society. Almost 10 years later the park has not been completed.

The mitigation took place as the result of litigation brought by a group of heritage organizations, including Friends of the Concord Covered Bridge and PEACH (Protect Endangered Areas of Cobb's History) that were concerned about the construction of the East West Connector through the Historic District.
At the western end of the subject one lane bridge, Concord Road goes back into a narrow 2 lane crooked road that winds its downward way to the Covered Bridge - which is also just one lane.

The approaches to the Covered Bridge and the one lane bridge warns the drivers that there is only a 7 foot clearance for vehicles and a weight limit of only a few thousand pounds. If the one lane bridge over the old railroad bed (The Silver Comet Trail) is replaced with a stronger and wider bridge, it will just encourage those larger vehicles into the Covered Bridge area at a higher speed.

When it was called to the attention of the Cobb DOT that the existing one lane. Continued next page bridge over the Silver Comet trail acts as a deterrent to heavy traffic (large trucks, construction equipment and the like) entering the one lane Covered Bridge, DOT's David Jackson said "…..We understand that the single lane bridge over the Silver Comet acts as a warning to some of the oversized vehicles, and slows some of the traffic approaching the hill down to the Covered Bridge, but neither are desirable functions for a bridge.

"One of the major concerns is the intrusion of the proposed project into close proximity of the Covered Bridge itself. This is outlined in the Survey Report: "The project would consist of the replacement of the structurally deficient one-lane timber stringer bridge on Concord Road over the Silver Comet Trail with a two-lane concrete bridge. The project would also widen the approaching roadway to match the bridge. Traffic would be detoured around the project location onto a five-mile detour….. The existing typical section consists of two 11 foot lanes with 6 foot rural shoulders that taper to one 12-foot lane on the existing bridge. The proposed new section would consist of two 11 foot lanes with 6 foot shoulders and a two-lane bridge.

The proposed length of the project is 0.40 mile.(almost 1/2 mile) Existing right of way is approximately 80 feet. The amount of required right of way has not been determined.

DOT's David Jackson responded to an email to Harold Smith as follows: "The agency implementing the project is Georgia DOT, with Cobb County pro-viding input at the local level. We have met with GDOT and discussed the unique aspects of this project. Consideration was given to rehabilitating the structure, but was found to not be cost effective". Editor's note: Surely rehabilitating the existing bridge would be more cost effective than purchasing right of way and constructing a new two lane concrete bridge.

Jackson, in the email, went on to say "Because of the high traffic counts, the bridge's replacement must be two lanes. We have provided GDOT copies of the plans for the Concord Road Bridge over the East West Connector, which has a wooden façade that mimics the wooden trusses used on covered bridges. GDOT is agreeable to using a similar façade to mitigate the visual impact to the District. As we continue to develop plans for the replacement bridge, we will consult with the County's Historic Planner, Kim Sawyer, with the Historic Planning Commission, with the residents of the District and certainly, Com-missioner Thompson and the Cobb Coun-ty Board of Commissioners.

"If the DOT and County Com-missioners go through with the plans as presented, when the GDOT re-assesses the bridges three years from now, argument of the of the DOT ll be "Well, since there is a two lane 22 foot road on each side of the one-lane Historic Concord Covered Bridge, why don't we just bypass the bridge and build another two lane one on the north or south side of it or better yet, why don't we just demolish the last Covered bridge in use in the metropolitan Atlanta area and really move the traffic through there."
Mr. Jackson is yet to respond to a request for the latest information on a traffic count in to Concord Bridge area.

The money that would be required for the proposed project should be desig-nated for completing the Heritage Park project as was promised by the Cobb County office holders at the time of the mitigation It remains unfinished after ten years.

Cobb County Commissioners

You may contact the County Commissioners at the following emails .

Chairman Sam Olens solens@cobbcounty.org

Helen Goreham hgoreham@cobbcounty.org

Tim Lee tlee@cobbcounty.org

Joe Thompson jthompson@cobbcounty.org

Annette Kesting akesting@cobbcounty.org


 

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