Owned by R. Detch 1968 - 2002
Note the “holes” in the log wall that are now covered by the wide chimney.
Although the Barracks was never a part of Montwell Commons, one individual played a significant role in the preservation of both: Rosalie Detch. Because of her interest in historic preservation and development, she was instrumental in saving the shuttered Blue Grass Mill and, after it burned, creating the Fort Savannah Village and later, the Inn. She purchased the residence of the Cabell family on the corner of Randolph and Jefferson streets and restored it to become The Barracks that we know today.
The Cabell family had lived in the Barracks at least since 1937 when Mary Cabell conveyed the property to her husband, Walter “in consideration of . . . the love and affection she has for her said husband” (deed 130-505). Mary had previously inherited the property from her mother, Mary E. James.
According to the minutes of the September 3, 1968 Old Red Mill stockholder meeting, under the guidance of Rosalie Detch, the Old Red Mill, Inc purchased the Barracks from Walter Cabell for $9500 (deed 246-270). Thirty four years later, in 2002, Rosalie donated the Barracks to the Historical Society: “the party of the first part desires to preserve the historic structure situate on
the lot below and to make a gift of the said property to be used for public and historic preservation purposes” (deed 478-764).
Information for the following paragraphs was provided by
Rosalie Detch's son Paul during interviews with Cliff Baker in 2023.
The exterior of the Barracks had been covered in wooden siding and Rosalie had it removed to expose the original log walls. The plaster was also removed from the interior walls. As part of the renovation, the log building was raised with large house jacks and a new stone foundation was built under it.
When the kitchen wing was added to the log building at Montwell Commons in 1968, the logs were obtained from the Oliver House which was located between Friars Hill and Williamsburg. The Oliver house had a chimney with a fireplace on the outside where the kitchen was located. Having a detached kitchen kept the smells of burning wood and cooking food out of the main living area of the house.
When the siding was removed from the Barracks, there were two large openings in the log wall (photo above right) and a foundation for a chimney was also discovered. Rosalie designed the new chimney so that it would be wide enough to cover those holes in the wall.
She also had a fireplace constructed on the outside so that someday an outdoor kitchen, like the one the Oliver house might have had, could be built. Fred Zimmerman was the mason and he carefully trimmed the base of the original chimney foundation so that it sloped towards the house. That way when the chimney settled - they often did because the foundations were not strong enough to support the weight of the chimney - it would tilt towards the house and not create a gap where fire could spread between the chimney and the wooden building.
The Detches had a museum in the basement of the Fort Savannah Village Visitor Center, but they could not manage it efficiently there so the museum was moved to the Barracks. However, they were able to get a grant to pay for two summer interns to run the museum. After a couple of years, the museum was transferred to the North House.