HISTORIC LILLY SCHOOLHOUSE
Welcome to the Old Lilly Schoolhouse
Circa 1912, the Lilly Schoolhouse was built by Perry Green Busbee, Sr., the father of Georgia's 77th Governor, George Busbee. (George Busbee was Governor from 1975-1983) The Lilly Schoolhouse is the only surviving wood-framed school building in the State of Georgia with a second floor auditorium. The auditorium seats approximately 150 and has been restored to an art-deco theater/auditorium of the period. The downstairs floor has a large banquet room and two period classrooms with original chalkboards.
Saved from impending demolition, the Lilly Schoolhouse in Lilly, Georgia has been a labor of love for local Warner Robins Attorney, Michelle Smith. The loving restoration has been a several year long, project. In January 2017, a natural disaster of tornadoes almost destroyed three years of painstaking, historic restoration.
Extensive rain damage from the January 2017 tornadoes was not covered by the insurance policy, as rain was excluded. Disaster assistance with FEMA and SBA, while promised by both bureacracies never materialized, since Lilly, Georgia was 30 miles outside of the disaster declaration. Local delegations from the Mayor of Lilly, Governor Nathan Deal's Office, State Representative Patty Bentley, and Congressional Representative Sanford Bishop's Office, pleaded to have the disaster declaration amended by FEMA, only to be told that such an amendment could only come from the President.
Even a letter to President Trump requesting assistance could not unravel the bureacracy. With a stroke of a pen, the Lilly Schoolhouse could have received a low interest SBA loan covered under the FEMA Disaster Declaration to redo disaster related casualties. The 1912 period elevator addition was put on hold, as those funds were needed to start over from the disaster.
Undettered, Smith and volunteers continued the labor of love, starting over repainting and reworking areas already restored one paint stroke and one wall at a time. Historic restoration is a slow process, as it is not enough just to make an old building look new. Original colors of surviving paint are matched, as well as originial stain colors from surviving baseboard and trim. Period lighting, curtains, and appropriate historic era furnishings are just some of the details that make an old building go back in time.
This is not the first time the Lilly Schoolhouse was almost destroyed by water damage, as the school was in danger of being lost completely by catastrophic roof damage due to water and rain damage in the 1980's. The upstairs auditorium was completely in ruins in the 1980's and again in 2017. No sooner was it repaired again, than Hurricane Michael in October 2018 blew his winds to make repairs necessary yet again. But each repair has brought new finds and new history....and new realizations that insurance seems to never really pay for damage caused by a tornado, a hurricane, or a storm.
Early in restoratons, the entire front classrooms were almost completely lost due to massive termite damage that obliviated supporting beams, So as not to destroy the integrity of the original heart pine classroom flooring, termite repair was done by crawling under the school, and slowly taking up individual heart pine boards to save and relay them after new supporting beams were constructed underneath. At all times, the goal has been to save the integrity of the building and to maintain its character and charm.
The Lilly Schoolhosue is not perfect, because construction in 1912 was not perfect. Defects and imperfections have been lovingly preserved, including the glass opening in an interior door that was once an exterior door. The original craftsman built the door by hand and squared out the opening by sight. The original out of square opening, visible if you look close remains, to be true to the character and charm of the building.
That door was built with love for the Lilly Schoolhouse some 100 years ago,
and love should not be changed to fit in a square.
We hope you love this schoolhouse as much as we do. We will be here when the pandemic is over. So stay home and stay safe. Aren't you glad some things only come around every 100 years or so? Be safe!