Fire destroys Valdosta's oldest house -, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Fire destroys Valdosta's oldest house

By Jade Bulecza - bio | email

VALDOSTA, GA (WALB) –The oldest house in Valdosta went up in flames Wednesday.

The historic home on Wells Street caught fire Wednesday morning.

The J.T. Roberts house was built 165 years ago, stood for 165 years. Firefighters are still working to determine the cause of the fire, but they don't believe it was intentionally set.

Fire shoots through the roof of the J.T. Roberts house at 206 Wells Street early this morning.

"It's just heartbreaking, utterly heartbreaking," said Emily Foster, the Valdosta historic preservation planner.

As firefighters battled the blaze they fought against the wind.

"The prevailing winds were strong gusty it hindered a firefightering efforts," said Valdosta Fire Chief J.D. Rice. "Everytime we tried to make a headway on the fire the winds kicked up and it spread."

Firefighters saw the fire during a shift change ten minutes before eight and rushed over. It started in the back, central part of the house.

"It's completely destroyed," said Chief Rice.

The house was built in 1845. It stood the test of time and it succumbed to fire early this morning.

"It's a really important piece of history we're losing right now," said Foster.

Some furniture was salvaged like this piece Valdosta Mayor John Fretti and Fire Lt. Derek Willis are carrying.

The Valdosta heritage foundation has owned the house for 11 years. It was donated by J.T. Roberts granddaughter, Catherine Redles.

"It was also the homestead of William Wisenbaker who was here before the city of Valdosta who handled the land to create the city of Valdosta," said Foster.

The foundation president said the house was 80 percent restored. They planned to have a wedding here in April.

"It's a shame because things were starting to get positive to where we could do things with the house and that all came to an end today," said Tom Haller, the Valdosta Heritage Foundation president.

And as the community tries to preserve historic homes, it's a sad reminder of how quickly we can lose them.

J.T. Roberts was a prominent businessman at the turn of the 20th century. He was the mayor of Valdosta at one time. His children and grandchildren lived in the home.

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