A new initiative to renovate the interiors of the Panola County Chamber of Commerce offices at the historic Hawthorn Clabaugh Patterson House is taking shape.
Led by Hawthorn Funeral Home and owner Carlton Shamburger, the goal is to have local businesses sponsor individual room renovations in the house. Hawthorn’s will kick off the program by funding the lobby renovations, with work expected to start sometime in the fall if things go to plan.
“All the bones to it are so good,” Shamburger said. “All the old woodwork and all they restored years ago was in great shape. It doesn’t need a whole lot. But it needs something, like the furnishings were antebellum more like instead of what they should have been.”
Renovating the interiors won’t just make the building nice for chamber employees. Shamburger and Perot-Vance say it will encourage more visitors, more requests to rent out the space and ultimately more memories from others.
“I learned that with the funeral home, you know, because we’re working on it again now. But when we first restored that original part, you know, it made us feel real prideful because people would come by and and people from out of town sometimes would appreciate it more,” Shamburger said. “And this because sometimes you you’re used to what you have. But they ask can we take photos? Can we this? Can we that, and that’s a compliment because we brought back that character and that charm and everything else. And it reminds you ‘Oh, yeah, we do have something kind of unique and special here.’”
The lobby renovation will hopefully inspire others to pitch in, Shamburger said, especially because not everyone is able to visualize how a design might look before it happens. They’re starting with the lobby because it already has wooden floors, and because it’s one of the main working areas, finishing it first means staff won’t be disrupted too much by other projects.
“Our hope is that if we do this, maybe other businesses, community people will step forward,” Shamburger said. “Maybe they’ll take a room, they’ll sponsor that, maybe they’ll at least, you know, put up money towards that. And that was just kind of how that started. But we decided that we could do that one room to kind of inspire everybody and to put a focus on it.”
It’s also a way for Hawthorn’s to finally celebrate its 100th anniversary after being derailed by the COVID pandemic. They had originally wanted to donate a town clock, which turned out to be impossible to do at the time given everything, and all of their other planned programs also had to be cancelled. But the Hawthorn Clabaugh Patterson House used to be owned by the same family that owned the funeral home and several other businesses in town, so Shamburger said this was a nice tie-in and something they could do for the community.
“What I’m most excited about is people who may not have ever engaged with the chamber before or have but you know, are interested in what’s going on this might spark their interest and decide, hey, this is something I’m passionate about too. And so preserving a gem for generations to come is how I see this,” Perot-Vance said.
“That’s the other scary part,” Shamburger added. “There’s so many gems we’ve lost right here in downtown.”
The Hawthorn Clabaugh Patterson House was built during the Arts & Crafts Movement, and the goal, Shamburger said, was to make sure all of the architecture within the building and the interiors matched to its original look.
“In those days, because everything was becoming mechanism in that day, that’s what the Movement was all about. Automation came in, and everybody was fearful for their jobs, fearful for your for things. But it sparked a renaissance of people wanting handmade, handcrafted things not done through the mills.”
Perot-Vance said that’s something we’re seeing today too, in things like craft fairs and Potlatch and generally building community.
“We’re seeing that reinvestment of people’s time,” she said.
She added that she’s also seen an uptick in people being interested in the history of the building.
“I think it’s a good thing. I think it’s, you know, it’s engaging our younger generations and preservation of the past,” she said.
The project is also highlighting another aspect of the chamber: The work done by volunteers throughout its existence. Perot-Vance and Shamburger both expressed appreciation for the work previously done on the building, much of it documented in the chamber’s historical files.
“A lot of the board members, we have pictures of them like Mark Harris over there scraping, that’s one of my favorite pictures,” Perot-Vance.
“And Jeretta Thompson on that ladder, you know, she’s scraping and cleaning paint. And I did not know because that was before my time — I didn’t come until 94. So it made me give a new appreciation for those people and the kind of work they did because they weren’t just writing a check. No, that was blood, sweat and tears they were putting in it.”