The Smith-Compton House at 613 East Main Street is reported to have been the site of a civil war battle.
The historical landmarks in town will be easier to identify now that homeowners who live in the historic district have been given plaques to distinguish their homes. The plaques have names of the original owners that give the homes even more of their own unique identities, drawn from the heritage of the house.
“It ties the history into the house and into the community,” said town historian Pam Baumgartner.
Baumgartner and Porter Casey of the Clayton Historical Association unveiled 11 plaques Thursday night at a ceremony for the homeowners.
There are 294 buildings and sites in Clayton’s historic district, said Casey. Unlike a state preservation site, which has strict rules to follow regarding any updates to the architecture, homes in Clayton’s historic district don’t have rules to follow about changing their home, according to Baumgartner.
The homeowners who received the plaques on Thursday were the first to sign up to receive them.
“Hopefully when their plaques are up, more people will want to do it,” said Baumgartner. There are about 10 other homeowners who are eligible to receive them.
The shiny plaques are a symbol that will make the houses stand out, but they only hint at the rich stories behind them. Each house has its own personality.
Stories to tell
One house that received a plaque is the Smith-Compton house at 613 East Main Street, owned by Mary Compton. The house was built about 1850.
According to Baumgartner, it is believed that there was once a cannonball in that home. It was launched into the home during a battle in the Civil War.
The way Baumgartner explained it, Sherman and his troops came through town and camped somewhere near the railroad. A small battle ensued between the Confederate and Union soldiers over control of the railroad. In news clippings from the 1970s, Baumgartner found that the battle took place near Compton’s house.
Sherman and his troops are believed to have fought in the front yard of the Compton house in 1865. Troops from across the railroad tracks fired back at Sherman one night and damaged a column on the front of the house. When the column was repaired, the homeowner at the time had it turned so that it wouldn’t detract from the beauty of the home.
Another home that was distinguished is the J.D. Barbour House, built circa 1925, which is at 475 Second Street.
J. Dwight Barbour, the original owner of the house, was one of the first business people in town, according to Baumgartner. He opened up a business center where the Flipside Restaurant is now located. He also founded the Clayton Rotary club.
“We would go walking by that house when we first moved to Clayton and I always told my husband, ‘one day we’ll live there,’” said Jan Hardison. “Now, 16 years later we do.” Jan and Terry Hardison moved into the Barbour house in 2010. Besides a historic exterior, and a tennis court that was part of the original layout, the house also has historic artifacts inside.
A mantle that once belonged to the Horne mansion, which sat where Horne Square is now, was salvaged from the mansion before it was destroyed. Now it decorates the fireplace in the Barbour house.
Just a start
The new plaques are just one part of the larger historical project that Baumgartner has been working on with the Clayton Historical Association.
Each of the homes that received a plaque will be included on a walking tour. The walking tour route is expected to be completed in the next six months, said Baumgartner. She has already put a map together with facts about the different stops, but is awaiting feedback from people who are trying out the walking map to make sure it answers all of the questions someone may have about a historical spot.
Also, the town is collecting documents with historical information, including news clippings, old photos, and even old word-of-mouth stories, about each of the homes in the historic district. The information will be put into a notebook that can be accessed in the library and online.
According to Baumgartner, she often gets questions from visitors about when a specific house was built, and who lived there. Now that they’ve got the notebook, people can reach back into history just by looking up a reference point, and then tap into a whole other world of yester-year.