March 11, 2008
Tifton-Time can take beauty of a building and turn it into a beast. That happened over the years to a local landmark-the Lankford Manor.
In its beauty days, the Lankford Manor held numerous special occasions. It was the place to have special events and a place for Sunday lunch.
On Sundays, congregations at both the First Baptist Church and the First Methodist Church urged their pastors to end their sermons early. The shortest sermon helped church goers get to the Lankford Manor for Sunday lunch first before their rival group arrived.
The Lankford Manor had a prime location at the corner of Love Avenue and Third Street on busy highway 41, the major north-south highway before Interstate 75 opened.
Over time and with shifting traffic patterns, the beast began to slowly appear as the once showplace fell into disrepair, becoming a community eye sore. It looked as if the building had died.
But, Jerry Davis heard a faint heartbeat in the rundown building when he went inside for the first time.
Jerry and his wife, Sondra, lived in central Florida and visited friends in Tifton. Sondra immediately fell in love with the old building the first time she saw it when it looked beastly.
"The structure was sound; there were cosmetic issues," says Jerry, a building contractor who dearly loves to renovate old buildings.
"I'd rather do that than build a $2.5 million house," says Jerry.
Why would he prefer to deal with old buildings?
"Because the craftsmanship that went into these old houses is just unbelievable, to bring it back like it use to be," says Jerry.
He takes particular pride in the Manor's staircase that had about nine coats of paint covering its wood. It took five workers, four weeks to remove all those layers.
Jerry found the paint protected the wood.
"You don't see nicks in the wood. It's rather smooth," says Jerry.
One part had rotted so much that it was beyond repair. So, Jerry duplicated the intricate parts.
"I match it. I use the same species of wood that was there. If it's curly pine, I replace it with curly pine," says Jerry.
The staircase has an interesting history.
"I'm told it was staircase was manufactured in England and hand carved underwater because of the brittle wood. Once finished, it was disassembled, shipped to Tifton and reassembled in the Lankford Manor," says Jerry.
What if the old craftsmen were able to come and see their work more than a century later?
"I think they would be very proud that it's still here, and hopefully proud of me," says Jerry.
In reality, Jerry wishes he had worked with the craftsmen back then.
"I would like to have been back there then to see how they did it," says Jerry who has worked almost non-stop on his biggest restoration project for the past four months.
"I love it. I love the way it's turning out," says Jerry.
The public gets to see the newly renovated Lankford Manor on Friday, April 4th through Sunday, April 13 when local garden clubs have their yearly show house.
The new Lankford Manor will be open from 9am to 5:30pm Monday through Saturday, and Sundays from 12:30pm to 5pm. Admission is $10 per person.