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Auction Friday to save Mills House
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Time is running out for saving the Mills House.
The house, which is on the corner of Oglethorpe Highway and Memorial Drive, was donated to the Midway Museum by property owners Jay and Joel Osteen in April to preserve the structure for cultural and historical purposes.
“The Mills House was donated to the Midway Museum to be located on their property in close proximity to their current structure to expand their collection and showcase another home with our vernacular architecture,” said Rachel Hatcher, Liberty Cultural and Historic Association officer.
It will cost $60,000 to move the house to the museum property and an additional $90,000 for renovations, Hatcher said.
To help raise money for the move and the preservation work, the Liberty Cultural and Historic Association will host an auction next Friday in conjunction with the Hinesville Downtown Development Authority’s Holiday Open House.
“We feel strongly that Liberty County is facing a growing trend of ‘out with the old and in with the new’ that has caused the loss of many historic or culturally significant buildings in our county,” Hatcher wrote in an e-mail. “While development is vital for the future of our community, it is also imperative that we retain our history and culture in the process so that we do not forget where we came from as we grow in a responsible way,” said Hatcher, who was born and raised in Liberty County.
The auction will be from 5:30-8:30 p.m. at the Historic Liberty County Jail and museum on Main Street in Hinesville.
Refreshments will be served and musician Bill Smith and his partner will offer jazzy acoustic guitar numbers and vocals throughout the evening.
Admission is free and attendees will sign in when they arrive to receive bid numbers that will correspond with their contact information.
Items up for auction range in value from $10 to $500, which is ideal for a variety of budgets before the holiday shopping season and offers buyers unique gifts they won’t find in retail stores, Hatcher said.
Handmade jewelry and chocolates, watercolor paintings, photography, pen and charcoal drawings, acrylics, holiday arrangements, gift certificates, pottery, handmade quilts, handmade baby clothes, books and more will be auctioned. 
All items were donated by local businesses, artists and Liberty County residents. Winning bids will be finalized at 8:30 p.m. and those who want to bring their items home may do so if they are paid for in full. 
Winning bidders may pay for items in cash or with a local check.
Last year, about 250 people attended the event and organizers are hoping to double the turnout this year.
Although $25,000 has been raised for the Mills House, it is still not enough to move the aging structure. Because of its historical value, Hatcher and others believe saving the house is crucial.
“Like Liberty County, the Mills House is not flashy or unnecessarily ornate. It is built to last and shows great integrity and character, utilizing the highest quality materials available at the time of its construction. We feel strongly that this home is not only historically relevant but also a great asset to our community, culturally and aesthetically,” Hatcher said.
The dwelling houses the Hinesville Area Arts Council’s classes and other activities that community organizations host on occasion.
HAAC art instructor Christina Mansfield, who hosts weekly art classes there for community members, said she wants the Mills House to stay in one piece so local artists can continue to enjoy it.
“It has always been a bewildering experience teaching HAAC art class, creating art, attending events and exhibitions at such a historical and wondrous place,” Mansfield said. “I’m so thankful for being allowed to use such a wonderful place.”
The art instructor said she is excited to hear about the outcome of the auction and that as one of the last historical landmarks in Liberty County, she hopes the old Mills House will continue to serve as a haven for artists.
“If we can help to preserve this structure by donating toward its relocation, then we have done our part to preserve a piece of our heritage,” Hatcher said. “We still have a lot of money to raise, but we have a great start.”
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