The Cameron-Awtrey-Brady-Hunnicutt House has stood on Vernon Street for 165 years, and after all that time, laughter and family gatherings are still a mainstay of the stately home.
According to William Davidson’s “Pine Log and Greek Revival,” the home was built in 1853 by a pioneer settler, builder and contractor named Benjamin Cameron. It was one of several structures that he built in the area.
“Benjamin Cameron built it,” said Gail Hunnicutt, who has lived in the home for most of her life. “He wasn’t a farmer. He was a builder. He built Smith Hall at the college, and he also built the original Troup County Court House which was where the statue of Lafayette is now — before it burned, and they rebuilt it down the street.”
The pre-Civil War construction of the home meant that every step of the building process was different from modern construction.
“I’ve always appreciated the home that I grew up in because of the history of it,” said Kim Crawford, Hunnicutt’s daughter, who spent her childhood in the house. “If you think about the time that people spent to build that, [it is amazing]. They had to make all of those bricks, and they had to go get that lumber, and they had to finish it up in order to get it done in time. Now, they just put the house up with electric tools.”
Even the bricks were different than what you could expect to find in modern construction.
“All these exterior walls downstairs are 18 inches of solid brick, but those bricks weren’t like the bricks that we have today,” Hunnicutt said. “The way they made them was they had forms in the shape of bricks, and they poured mud in them and let them sit in the sun and dry. So, it is very secure, as long as you don’t touch it.”
The home features round brick columns, which are considered unusual, but similar columns were featured in Cameron’s other work.
“We call that river style, even though it is nowhere near the river,” said Clark Johnson, Troup County Historian. “They would build the ground floor out of rock and plaster in case there was a flood, it wouldn’t damage the wooden structure. It is quite unique, but Cameron, who built it, that was his signature.”
Julian Harris bought the home prior to the Civil War, and John Franklin Awtrey purchased the home in 1872. It would remain as the home of their son, Philip, and his wife until about 1939 when C. S. Easley purchased the property.
Over the years, the home has seen several renovations, and at one point, it was used for apartments.
“It is constant maintenance, but at one point around the early 1900s, Mr. and Mrs. Awtrey Sr. and Mr. and Mrs. Awtrey Jr. lived here, and the men died,” Hunnicutt said. “This was before 401Ks and social security and all that, so they turned it into four apartments because they needed the income.”
The timing of that conversion actually led to the preservation of one of the home’s original features from a decorating fad of the time, according to Hunnicut.
“We are lucky to have all of these old wide plank pine floors because these got to be way out of fashion in the early ‘20s when the Awtreys were here and didn’t have a lot of money,” Hunnicutt said. “People were taking these floors and either ripping them up and throwing them away and replacing it with narrow oak flooring. They were either doing that or just putting the oak floor over what was there, but the Awtreys couldn’t afford it, so we have the original pine floors here and upstairs, which is a real blessing because so often they had been replaced.”
Hunnicutt’s step-father, Hal Brady, and his first wife, Elizabeth, purchased the home in 1947. They refurbished it and added closets at that time.
“When I first saw that house I was 7-years-old, and my parents and I, we lived in a little house, and I loved that house,” said Hal Brady III, Hunnicutt’s stepbrother. “When my parents bought that house [on Vernon Street], we went out there, and I remember it was thundering and lightning. That house had not been lived in for quite some time, so when we opened the door, the cobwebs were there, and it looked to me as a boy like a haunted house. So, I said, ‘I don’t want to live here.’”
In the 72 years that followed that day, Brady came to love the house, and he watched his father, his mother and later his stepmother turn it into a home again. He would live there until he went to college at the University of Georgia.
“She was an amazing person with her taste in interior decorating,” Brady said of his mother. “She remodeled every one of those rooms and made that place a true home. She was gifted in that way because the dining room, the living room, then den — it just couldn’t have been any finer as far as I was concerned. It was a privilege to grow up there and also to continue to be connected to it after all of these years.”
He recalled his parents updating the landscaping and interior of the home.
“My mother actually revolutionized that house, and of course, Gail has continued to do that too,” Brady said. “That house has had some marvelous people working with it and dealing with it.”
Elizabeth Alssetter Brady died when the family had lived in the home for a few years, and about three years later, Hal Brady II married again to Hunnicutt’s mother.
“He and his first wife bought it in 1947, and she died in 1950. Back then when pregnant women got kidney disease,” Hunnicutt said. “She was diagnosed on Friday and dead on Sunday. She died in ’50. I was born in 1945, but my daddy was killed in World War II right before I was born. Mother and my daddy were from here, so I lived here with her parents.”
In 1975, Hunnicutt and her husband, Dr. William “Pat” Hunnicutt, purchased the home and worked to maintain the home while making it their own.
“This had always been the family home, and we actually moved in in March,” Hunnicutt said. “I guess Easter was the first family holiday gathering [after the sale]. The family just all came like they always had. The Fourth of July they all came. Memorial Day, Labor Day, they all came. Thanksgiving and Christmas, they all came.”
In fact, according to family members, the home is now the central meeting point for the entire extended family.
“We still have a big family Thanksgiving there because that is where we were used to going when my grandparents had it,” Crawford said. “We just kept that tradition. Now, we include not just my dad’s side of the family and my mom’s side anymore, but it includes my brother’s in-laws and my in-laws since we’ve gotten married. It is still the main gathering home.”
Friends and family visit the home regularly, but life-changing events have occurred at the home as well.
“My mom’s wedding reception was there. My wedding reception was there, and then my cousin, Ansley [Campbell], her wedding and reception were there at that house,” Crawford said. “So, not only has it had Thanksgivings, it has also gotten us married off.”
Enumerable memories fill the halls and sitting room of the home. For some family members, it has become home to the point that despite living elsewhere, the Cameron-Awtrey-Brady House remains the place they call home.
“When my father died in 1977, the church where I was serving wanted to do something for us, and so they raised some funds. I took that fund and got a painting of that house made as a type of heritage in my life,” Brady said. “That painting stands right as you walk in the front door of our town house right now. That is the first thing that you see, is a picture of that house because it reminds me of my heritage.”
Brady said that it is common for 60 to 70 people from the extended family to attend Thanksgiving celebrations at the home. That family has created numerous memories at the home over the years.
“I’ve lived here for 64 years, so there are so many memories,” Hunnicutt said. “Some [memories are] of when I was a child and when our children were children. Some are of when they are grown, and now the grandchildren are coming through.”
Years from now, the family hopes to continue to make memories in this home that has stood the test of time.
“It is neat to have history to the house that you grew up in, and it is neat that it has been in my mom’s family for so long,” Crawford said. “We knew the family that owned it before. We hope that it will stay in the family somehow even in the future.”