‘Seedhouse’ getting energy-efficient transformation

Staff Written Community

With help from The 1772 Foundation and The City of Madison, plans for the transformation of the “Seedhouse” in downtown Madison by the Madison-Morgan Conservancy are moving forward with innovative new technologies to bring the blighted property into an energy and water efficient asset.

Bolstered by a recent grant from The 1772 Foundation, the Madison-Morgan Conservancy plans to employ several sustainable technologies in their rehabilitation of a c. 1899 cotton seed house in Madison’s downtown commercial core, transforming the blighted property into a 1,200-square-foot energy and water efficient commercial space. The City of Madison is also contributing to the redevelopment project through their façade grant program.

The Seedhouse, built by M.L. Richter c. 1899, was located near the cotton gins along the railroad and served as an integral part of Morgan County’s cotton industry. Presumably the Seedhouse sold cotton seed to planters for their next crop or to cotton seed oil mills for cotton seed oil pressing.  

In the 1940s, the warehouse was adapted into a dwelling, in the 1970s into to the Prior’s “Kiddie Playschool,” and again in the 1980s into “Helen’s Beauty Shop.” The Conservancy’s Endangered Properties Revolving Fund purchased the property on Oct. 30, 2020, after a previous owner removed most of its historic materials, leaving only beams, stud walls, sheathing, and roof, with a shed roof on the back covering the original scale pit. 

“The Main Street Program is excited by the Conservancy’s use of our Downtown Façade Grant Program to rehabilitate the Cotton Seed House on First Street,” said Karen Robertson, Madison Main Street Director. “This type of major improvement project beautifully demonstrates the core purposes for the grant: a rehabilitation that involves the substantial recapturing of a historic appearance, thus preserving architectural integrity of the structure. This project, vital to the continued improvement of Downtown Madison, could not have been undertaken by a for-profit entity and we are proud to aid the Conservancy’s effort in some small way.”

“We are excited about saving this piece of Morgan County’s history and are grateful for the City of Madison’s assistance in bringing it back from the brink through the façade grant program,” said Christine Watts, Executive Director of the Conservancy. “And we wanted to lead by example by using some of the green building techniques we’ve been promoting for so many years, and with The 1772 Foundation’s help we’ll be able to do just that.”

The Conservancy plans to pursue Earthcraft for Sustainable Preservation Certification which focuses on health, resource efficiency, and high performance while highlighting the historic features of the building. The Seed House project will include solar panels, pervious pavers, rain barrels, and LED lighting.  “The 1772 Foundation is committed to supporting historic preservation work that directly addresses the urgency of the climate crisis, said Margaret Waldock, President of The 1772 Foundation Board.  “We are very pleased to once again provide funding for the innovative work of the Madison-Morgan Conservancy as they begin this important green historic preservation initiative.”  

The Seedhouse rehabilitation will serve as a case study for developers and property owners interested in employing sustainable technologies in their own projects. “Want to know exactly how solar works and how much money it may save you on your electricity bills? Or how a rain barrel is constructed?” asked Watts. “This project will be an opportunity for the public to see these sustainable technologies in action. Of course, we would love to see more people employ these kinds of green building techniques. They are good for the world and good for the pocketbook.”

The Madison-Morgan Conservancy is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide public education on conservation matters and to protect and enhance the heritage and quality of life of the residents of Morgan County by preserving historic sites, greenspace, farmland, and timberland. For more information, visit mmcgeorgia.org.

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