Members of the Cherokee County Historical Society recently hand-delivered bronze plaques to five historic property owners to recognize their work in historic preservation.
The plaques were presented to Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church in Woodstock, Holbrook Campground in eastern Cherokee County, the Wheeler-Roberts Home in Ball Ground, the Edwards-Wood-Irizarry Home in Ball Ground and Dixie Speedway in Woodstock in lieu of the society’s annual awards banquet held every March.
“We were disappointed that we couldn’t celebrate their success with all of our CCHS family as usual, but this gave us a chance to really interact with the property owners in a personal way,” CCHS Director Stefanie Joyner said. “With two religious institutions, two residences and a commercial race track, the 2020 winners truly represent the wide range of unique historic resources we have here in Cherokee County.”
Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church was established in 1866 on Mill Street in Woodstock, on land donated to a group of freed slaves who had been meeting at a nearby brush arbor. The current brick structure was built in 1954 and is the third church building on the site. Mt. Olive has served the spiritual needs of its congregation for more than 150 years, and its present members are leaders in the African-American community.
Since 1838, people have made an annual pilgrimage to Holbrook Campground for 10 days of prayer and fellowship. The present gable-type arbor was built in 1890 and is encircled by 53 cabins, with another 19 cabins on an outer half-circle. Today, the cabins are still referred to as “tents” and have been passed down through generations of Cherokee County families.
The Wheeler-Roberts Home was built in 1902 by local businessman John Wheeler. In 2018, the house was damaged by fire and Wheeler’s granddaughter Sylvia Roberts and her son, Ball Ground Mayor Rick Roberts, renovated the structure. The family worked to restore the wood floors and original features of the historic home. Working with David Bray of Landford Thompson Interiors, the renovations included installing or restoring antique hardware and period lighting fixtures.
The Edwards-Wood-Irizarry Home was built in 1935 by C.M. Edwards and purchased by Dewey and Florence Wood in 1938. The Woods owned the property for more than 45 years and operated a cattle farm on 160 acres surrounding the house. The property still retains some of the original outbuildings, including a washhouse with a brick fireplace. The house was recently renovated to preserve its historic character.
Dixie Speedway has been a family-favorite sporting venue for more than 50 years. Built in 1968, the track was purchased by Mickey and Martha Swims in 1976, who converted the track from asphalt to Georgia red clay. Other than adding more seating and a VIP suite to the tower, the Speedway retains its original features. Still operated by the Swims family, Dixie Speedway has been inducted into the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame and draws approximately 150,000 attendees every year.