Inevitable is a word that may come to have different, controversial meanings in these strange times of today’s world and its future. If we are realistic, we might look in the mirror instead of a crystal ball. It’s all too clear that the one thing that is inevitable is change. Good or bad, there will be change.
When I read recently that it won’t be very long until Morgan Hardware moves to its new location, I was reminded, sadly, that the loss of yet another historic home in Woodstock is inevitable, in every context of the word. Preservationists had breathed a sigh of relief when Morgan’s moved from its home on the northwest corner of Main Street and Church Street (later named Towne Lake Parkway) to its present location on East Main. The Will Latimer Home, dating to 1921, had stood there, but cool heads prevailed, and the house escaped demolition and instead was moved to the adjoining lot, facing Arnold Mill Road. They say it cannot survive another move, and it will be part of the demolition process, making way for a parking deck and other projects that come under the heading of “progress.”
The Latimer name is on many a page in any written history of Woodstock. The patriarch, Pierce Butler Latimer, came as a teenager with his family to Woodstock from South Carolina soon after the end of the Civil War. He later married Martha Evans. Their family included three daughters and four sons. They were industrious people, and were involved in government and church and school activities as well as various businesses as the town was taking shape around the turn of the 20th century. One of the four sons was Will Latimer, and old-timers would recall in later years that he had a livery stable on the corner of Church and Main where the Bank of Woodstock would be located after its organization in 1908. His association with horses followed him across the railroad tracks when he built the home under discussion. He and Gus Coggins, according to the Lewis Poor memoir, ran a horse and mule dealership. Poor relates that Will’s daughter, Caroline, “was one of the prettiest ladies that I knew of and turned the head of many a man when she rode by on her horse.” Her dad “always kept a pretty horse for her to ride when she was in town. She would come riding down the street in full fashion, through town, and be gone an hour or so. When she returned, the horse would be sweating so much it looked as if he had been lathered with soap. She was some lady.”
Bill Dean (born in 1920) also had similar memories of this Latimer family. “I can remember Mr. Will Latimer had a home right where the hardware store is now and the barn was behind there. And he had horses. He had a daughter named Carolyn. Oh, she was beautiful. I was about 12 years old, wished I was 20! She was about 20 years old and just gorgeous.” Bill Dean had a Latimer pony story. On one of Bill’s many visits to Woodstock, Will asked him if he’d like to use a pony for the summer. He had purchased it for his granddaughter who was supposed to visit, but her visit was canceled. “I rode that pony down the Canton Highway to Marietta and we kept it in our garage… About school time in September, I rode that pony back up to Woodstock to turn it back over to him.”
Latimers were among the original members of the Woodstock Methodist Church which organized in 1888. In church records they were described as “all singers of note” for their interest and participation in church music. Over a century later, their legacy continued as the church purchased the adjacent building to be known as Latimer Hall in recognition of the generosity and heritage of the Latimer family. The building had been constructed by Southern Bell Telephone and Telegraph Co. in the early 1960s. It housed operational equipment as Woodstock became a part of the Metropolitan Atlanta telephone exchange, heralding modern technology for the future. Southern Bell soon outgrew that facility, and the building was sold to the city of Woodstock to be used as City Hall, previously housed in the Depot. City Hall moved to a new location on Arnold Mill Road in 1997, and the rest, as they say, is history as the Methodists soon purchased the property. The church used the facility for various programs while also renting it out for events. It has a bright future. Since the merger of Woodstock First United Methodist Church with another congregation, City on a Hill, to become The Way, Woodstock, there is a new vision for the building which will retain its name. As stated by pastors Andy Rogers and Ann Garvin, “Plans are to transform Latimer Hall into a multi-purpose mission and ministry facility enabling us to share hope with the next generation and empower them to discover their God-given purpose in life.” They remind us that the mission of the church is never about the buildings, but the lives transformed by the ministry facilitated through them.
And so, while the demise of the Will Latimer home is inevitable, the name lives on, at least for now. How fitting that Latimer Hall is only a few steps from Will Latimer’s livery stable site. Such is life in a small town.