Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of bimonthly articles on historic homes in the region. The stories will update readers on who is maintaining these landmarks as well as their historic significance.
TO SEE IT
* What: The Blunt House
* Where: 506 Thornton Ave., Dalton, Ga.
* Hours: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. each Friday
* Admission: $7, which includes a tour of the house and exhibits. Exhibits are changed quarterly; on view now are vintage toys and children's clothing
On one of the busiest thoroughfares in Dalton, Ga., stands a two-story, white, clapboard house that represents 130 years of town history. The Blunt House's unpretentious exterior makes it easy to zip past while admiring the architectural beauties surrounding it along Thornton Avenue's historic district. But what Blunt House may lack in curb appeal, it more than compensates for in historical significance.
Here's a quick armchair tour:
* Year built: Begun in 1846, it was completed in 1848. Only descendants of the Blunt family lived in the home until 1978.
* Claim to fame: Blunt House is Dalton's second-oldest home, finished eight years after Hamilton House, a plantation that is Dalton's oldest brick home. Blunt House was built by Ainsworth Blunt, who served as Dalton's first mayor, postmaster and was co-owner of the town mercantile, Blunt & King.
* Civil War history: When the Confederate Army of Tennessee was camped in Dalton during the winter of 1863-64, Gen. Joe Johnson and his staff officers were entertained in the house.
When Dalton was occupied by Union troops in 1864, the Blunts fled to Chicago. The empty home was commandeered for use as a Union hospital, and that is believed to have saved the home from destruction.
* Chattanooga connections: Ainsworth Blunt came to this area from New Hampshire to serve as a missionary to the Cherokee at Brainerd Mission, the historic site located on Brainerd Road adjacent to what is now Eastgate Town Center. Blunt was also a founder of First Presbyterian Church in Chattanooga as well as First Presbyterian Church in Dalton.
* Design: Blunt House was built in the Federal style, with two rooms upstairs and two downstairs divided by a central hall from front door to back door, similar to the dogtrot style. A Victorian addition was completed in 1910. Last year, the home's original electrical wiring was replaced.
* Founding family: After following the Cherokee on the Trail of Tears as far as the Mississippi River, Ainsworth Blunt later moved to Cross Plains -- which would become known as Dalton -- with his wife Harriet in 1843. After purchasing four acres and hiring a builder, he began building this home in 1846.
The couple had five children, two of whom died in infancy. Harriet Blunt died before the home was completed.
Ainsworth Blunt married Elizabeth Ramsey in 1849. They had one daughter, Eliza "Lillie" Ramsey Blunt. She, in turn, married Thomas Miles Kirby in 1872, and they had four daughters: Lucy Ann, Carolyn, Alleen and Emery.
Emery Kirby Baxley became a well-known Dalton educator who served in the city's public school system for 50 years. The former schoolteacher was principal of Fort Hill School, then Morris Street School. She lived in the house until her death in 1978.
* Caretakers: "Miss Emery" left her family home to the Whitfield-Murray Historical Society with the stipulation that it was to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places. That was accomplished in 1981. The volunteer-run organization continues to maintain the historic home.
* Little-known fact: Emery Kirby dated John Allan Baxley for 40 years before they married in 1966. He died two years after their marriage.
* Interesting features: The original portion of Blunt House features 10-foot plaster ceilings and wide-plank pine floors. But when the Victorian addition was built in 1910, no effort was made for continuity. Floors in the new addition were laid in 2-inch planks set perpendicular to the adjoining parlor with its wide pine floors. The crown moldings and woodwork were given a dark stain popular in the Victorian age, which contrasts starkly with cream-color moldings in the original rooms of the home.
* Quirky trivia: When Emery Kirby Baxley became ill with cancer, she moved to South Carolina to live with a niece by marriage. She never returned to Dalton, and Blunt House remains exactly as she left it when she walked out its doors for the final time -- right down to the canned bread-and-butter pickles still sitting in the back-porch pantry with other staples.
* Repository of history: The Blunt House accepts donations of collectibles that were made or used during the years in which the house was occupied (1848-1978). In addition to the Blunts' personal furnishings, the home has become a repository for collectibles from some of Dalton's most-prominent families. These include an antique rosewood, parlor grand piano with ball-and-claw feet; flow blue china that fills shelves of a built-in corner cabinet; an 1892 bronze satin wedding gown; and a four-poster bed.
* Legacy of teaching: Thirty-five years after her death, Emery Kirby Baxley is still teaching. Ever the educator, the school principal wrote notes on scraps of paper before her illness and attached them to articles around her family home -- from clothing to Christmas ornaments -- describing what they were and their history. The Historical Society has preserved these handwritten notes in acid-free paper for visitors to view.
Sources: Blunt House history by Dr. Elizabeth H. McArthur; Blunt House docents Joanne Lewis, Jean Manley and Sherrian Hall
Susan Palmer Pierce is a reporter and columnist in the Life department. She began her journalism career as a summer employee 1972 for the News Free Press, typing bridal announcements and photo captions. She became a full-time employee in 1980, working her way up to feature writer, then special sections editor, then Lifestyle editor in 1995 until the merge of the NFP and Times in 1999. She was honored with the 2007 Chattanooga Woman of ...