Historic building to be christened with marker

·3 min read

Aug. 5—Grover Coe Fohm's property tax bill for 1608 Reynolds St. was $5 — in 1873.

Deborah Riner, the building's current owner, wishes her taxes were that low.

Now serving as the office of Coastal Hypnosis Center, GuyNel Johnson's research suggests it once served a variety of sailors calling on the Port of Brunswick in centuries past.

"We think that it served maybe as a boarding house or maybe as a place where the workers at the port slept between voyages," Johnson said.

Grover Coe Fahm was a sea captain and operated out of the port of Brunswick, she said. He likely had other sea captains staying in the home.

"They had to stay somewhere when they were in port, and they had family as well. We think that's what a lot of these houses were back then," Johnson said. "They served the port. Bay Street didn't look the way it did now. They had a train and the Oglethorpe (Hotel), and it required a load of people to service all these areas."

Her information comes from records stored at Brunswick City Hall, which was a customs house once upon a time. Those records go back to the 17th century, and it was there she found property records for 1608 Reynolds dating back to 1873. She could not positively ID Fahm's grave in Brunswick, but his son is buried at Oak Grove Cemetery, and his obituary mentions that his father was a well-known sea captain.

It's evident the building is old, says Riner. from the original wood siding to some interior peculiarities.

"It has its little quirks because it's very old. The light switch is on the outside of the bathroom, things like that. It's got a very warm feel to it," Riner said.

The Magnolia Garden Club and Brunswick Downtown Development Authority will hold a ceremony to formally recognize the building with a historic plaque today at 5 p.m., and the public is welcome to attend.

While anyone is free to have their own plaque made, the garden club and DDA will order one and pay for half the cost as part of a grant program started in 2016 with the christening of The News' old office at 1604 Newcastle St. Johnson handles researching applications with support from DDA Executive Director Mathew Hill.

"We certainly endorse these and cooperate with them. We did work with them to come up with the program," Hill said.

The grant only applies to homes in the Old Town Historic District, which, according to Hill, is roughly bounded by H Street north, First Avenue to the south, Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to the east and the Brunswick River to the west.

For Johnson, the program is not just a historic preservation initiative, but something she personally has fun with.

"It's very important to me that we preserve our history and let everyone know how wonderful this place is," said Johnson. "I just love Brunswick."

Riner's business is the 17th plaque the club has awarded to a commercial business — the first since the COVID-19 pandemic — along with 12 plaques for historic homes.

In a bit of a confusing twist, 1608 Reynolds is the first plaque installed in the New Town neighborhood of the Old Town Historic District. New Town was a neighborhood developed after the original historic core in the SoGlo area, as the city expanded.

It's still under development, but Johnson said the club and DDA will eventually roll out a website folks can use to look up the history of each building.

For more information or to apply for a plaque, contact Hill at mhill@cityofbrunswick-ga.gov.