Restorations on the house that was built in 1910 by the Dunlevie Lumber Company and once housed the company’s treasurer, Herbert Dunlevie, should be complete just one day shy of Allenhurst’s Centennial Sawmill Day, set for Oct. 3. The property, which includes the ruins of Ernest Dunlevie’s original house, the former lumber company president’s house and 1,500 pristine acres of wetlands and wildlife area, are all part of the D.C. Miller Trust.
The trust was created to ensure the property would remain a wildlife preserve and bird sanctuary. It was created as a refuge for species in the area and to serve as open space for the enjoyment and education of the residents of Liberty County and the surrounding areas.
"At this point, we are probably 90 percent done with the exterior," said Joe Rothwell, restoration project manager for the Georgia Land Trust, which has been contracted by the D.C. Miller Trust to complete the project.
Rothwell became involved in the project as a graduate student at the Savannah College of Art and Design.
"A lot of this was easy to do because a lot of the
planning for this project started two years ago with SCAD," Rothwell said. "We came out here and came out with the plan on how to restore the house and gave the D. C. Miller Trust a formal proposal. Once the house is finished the first floor will be public space. The front parlor and the old dining room will be available to rent out. The catering kitchen will be there to service those needs and the building will be accommodated with two ADA complaint restrooms and a handicap access ramp. The second floor will be a private space to house the caretaker."
The restoration included restoring the breezeway which separated the main house from the detached kitchen, upgrading the utilities to accommodate modern technology and structural improvements to support public traffic.
The renovated house will be named the Jan and Dennis Waters Educational Center. The Waters purchased the house from the Sikes family and donated it to the Trust as their office and community center.
Neighbor and Allenhurst councilwoman, Amanda Cox, said the restoration completion will coincide with the Centennial celebration of Allenhurst. She proposed a Centennial Sawmill Day celebration and said Rothwell and friend Danny Norman have been her saviors in getting the centennial event off the ground.
"My parents and I moved to Allenhurst in 1959 when I was one week old," she said. "My father (William C. Cox) was instrumental in the town becoming incorporated in 1964 and he was the first Mayor. He served as Mayor for 38 years. I just hated to see our one-hundredth birthday go without us doing something about it."
Cox’s house once belonged to Edith and William Robinson, the lumber company’s Wood Manager.
The Allenhurst Sawmill day will take place from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., Oct. 3, on the grounds of the restored house. Cox said they plan to have historical interpreters on hand to educate the people about the way of life during the early 1900s when the lumber company made Allenhurst a bustling and busy community. Guest speakers include, Danny Norman and Donald Lovette.
Norman, who owns the Tea Grove Plantation in Long County, said preserving history is the main reason he became involved in the project.
"This is a beautiful piece of property that can be such a tremendous asset to our area," he said.
Norman has personally put in numerous hours using a specialized mulching machine to clear the land adjacent to the Educational Center. It was the site of Ernest Dunlevie’s house, thought to have been built on the original site of the Charlton Hines home. The house was later owned by Dorothy Miller Bloeser and according to Rothwell was struck by arsonist in 1989. All that remains is one of the chimneys and some of the original footings.
Danny Norman was recently named to the D.C. Miller Trust Board and is the current Interim Executive Director of Miller Pasture.
Norman said the plan is to recreate the driveway entrance and build walkways and roadways into the back section of the property for nature walks and birding trails.
According to Rothwell everything is on track to be complete on time for the festivities.