That was almost 120 years ago. Lovvorn was a physician and business leader of the community where his family name had long been prominent. When the Queen Anne-style house was finally assembled, Lovvorn ran his medical practice from a first-floor room and kept an eye out on his pharmacy, located only a few steps away. He did so until his death in 1926.
Over time, the house at 113 East College St. fell into disrepair and slowly began to fade into the background of the increasingly busy street corner on which it stood. Even though it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988, those who had inherited the care of the house found it increasingly difficult to do so. After awhile, the building sat unoccupied, with an uncertain fate.
But a happy coincidence led Linda and Richard Mechling to discover the property listed in an Atlanta newspaper. Linda was contemplating a move to west Georgia to take a job at the University. Since the couple had already restored the Victorian house in which they were living, they were undaunted by the task of rescuing the Lovvorn House. It took them 12 years, but the job is finally done.
On August 4, the house will start a new life as an ambassador for the town the Lovvorn family built. As part of Bowdon’s Founders Day celebration, the fully restored house will be open for tours from 3 to 6 p.m. The $10 fee for the tour will go to the Bowdon Area Historical Society.
“We like to save old houses,” said Linda. “This is our third house in Georgia, and we are just about done with one we have in North Carolina.”
The Mechlings plan to consider input from town leaders on Founder’s Day weekend as to how the Lovvorn house can become more a part of the community’s heritage – possibly by opening it up to events or other purposes.
“We really don’t know what we’re going to do with it,” Linda said. “We feel we want to give it back to the town.”
Richard, a retired physical therapist, said the couple bought the house from granddaughters of Dr. Lovvorn. “The house had not been lived in for years. It was pretty much closed up during all the 1990s and was in extreme disrepair.”
But the couple went to work stripping off years of paint to expose elegant woodwork throughout the house. Linda, who is an expert in Victorian antiques, began to install pieces in keeping with the house, which was built around 1895 – and the couple discovered many items connected to Dr. Lovvorn, including his medical bag, which are now on display throughout the house.
“A year ago, the house was still not even that presentable,” said Richard, whose renovation skills were learned on the job. “There was Sheetrock and dust and tools – and so it has just finally become show-able as of the last few months.”
According to Richard, James L. Lovvorn and his wife Carrie chose their house from a design book published by George F. Barber, a Knoxville architect. Barber ran a very successful mail-order business, catering to the rising middle class and professional people. That certainly describes Lovvorn, who was also a business leader of Bowdon and was even one of the founders of the Bowdon Railroad.
Barber’s architectural firm not only sold blueprints to houses, but also many pre-built elements for those houses, including staircases, windows and doors. Once such parts were delivered to a building site, local builders would be hired to follow the blueprints.
The house Lovvorn built is listed in the design book as costing $3,550 to build – the equivalent of somewhere north of $400,000 in today’s money.
The Lovvorn House is two stories, with a basement and attic. It has four bedrooms, a front parlor, a music room and a library. Linda points out that the house had a fireplace in every room and that the couple was able to restore most of the mantelpieces to their original condition. Under layers of paint, Richard discovered an electric bell system that Lovvorn used to summon his horse and buggy – and later, presumably, his automobile.
Inside Dr. Lovvorn’s old office, the Mechlings have placed a photograph of him standing beside an old car in front of what was then the Bank of Bowdon building, in which Lovvorn also ran a pharmacy. Those and other displays are labeled for the benefit of visitors.
The Mechlings’ restoration of Lovvorn’s house has clearly been a labor of love and they are more than happy to let community leaders use it to promote Bowdon, just as Dr. Lovvorn himself was always trying to promote the town.
“We feel like the house is part of the town; that it belongs here,” says Linda. “It’s not necessarily our house. It’s Bowdon’s house.”