|This Old House|
|Written by Joshua Smith and Valerie J. Morgan|
LITHONIA—Sixty curious “ramblers” visited Darold Honore’s house in November, examining the original molding, hardwood floors, and 10 fireplaces found throughout the two-story Victorian beauty he and his family call home.
Honore,’ a former mayor of Lithonia who now serves as a City Council member, lives in one of Lithonia’s oldest homes.
The 19th century house on Church Street served as DeKalb County’s first public library, started by Lula Almand, who allowed residents to drop by and borrow reading materials from the bookcase in her parlor.
The Honore’ home was one of several stops explored by 60 history buffs—ramblers—who signed up for the Arabia Mountain Expedition, which was co-hosted Nov. 17 by the Georgia Trust and the Arabia Mountain Heritage Alliance.
Members of the group plopped down $35 to $40 to tour historic sites in DeKalb and Rockdale and learn how people like Honore’ and the Monks at the historic Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Rockdale live with history every day.
“I actually call this place Noah’s ark because it’s such a large edifice made of cypress. It has fireplaces everywhere—even in the bathrooms—because that was the source of heat,” said Honore’, who bought the 3,000-square-foot, five-bedroom house in 2000 for $170,000.
And much like Noah’s ark, Honore’s house has been a refuge.
Honore’s parents moved into the house with him, his wife, Tammy, and their son, Darold, Jr. after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005.
ABC’s Good Morning America filmed a segment at the house on Thanksgiving Day that year to see how the family was coping and to get a sense for what the holiday meant to them having survived the storm.
When the history lovers toured his home, Honore’ not only showed off the architecture, but some of his personal memorabilia, including a picture of him standing with President Barack Obama, who was on the campaign trail in Atlanta in 2007.
The people on the tour also learned about the rich history of Lithonia.
“That’s one of the things this tour is all about. We’re ramblers. We love making that historic connection, bridging the gap between generations of families and people who live in and/or just care about this area,” said Arabia Mountain Heritage Alliance Executive Director Mera Cardenas. “There is so much great history here—from Lithonia’s Greek name to the fact that Lithonia served as the heart of the Georgia granite-quarrying. It’s really just exciting to see so many people ready to explore and learn more about this historic area.”
Robert McArthur said he brought his wife, Nancy, and son, John Mitchell, on the tour to get in touch with their family’s history. McArthur’s grandfather, John, was an immigrant from Scotland who moved to Lithonia in 1880 to mine in the granite quarry.
“It’s important for Mitch to see this and for him to get a better understanding of his roots and the great history he comes from,” said McArthur, a realtor in Fayetteville. “They may move to Atlanta or across the country, but I never want my family to forget their history or Lithonia.”
Other stops on the expedition included the Lithonia Woman’s Club; Arabia Mountain Nature Center; Lithonia’s Flat Rock Archives, which highlights a DeKalb community started by free slaves in 1865; the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, founded in Conyers in 1944; and the Smyrna Campground and Presbyterian Church, founded in 1827 in Conyers.