Historic District In Danger
May & June,
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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 "
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
.. 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.
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.
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.
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.
contact the County Commissioners at the following emails .
Sam Olens email@example.com