A clear vision, some tested patience and a lot of grace can go a long way when renovating a historic home. Marsha Perrewe Durham certainly found this to be true when a chance conversation with friends led her to restoring, loving on and living in a 176-year-old home in an area that is finally getting a lot of love, too.
Downtown Marietta is typically synonymous with the neighborhoods just north of the Marietta Square. Church Street, Cherokee Street, Kennesaw Avenue and all of their connecting neighborhoods have been on countless home tours, featured in magazines and revered by many. But the homes just south of the Square, many of which are just as old and just as beautiful, have often been overlooked.
Today, a drive down East or West Dixie Avenues, Frasier Street or Manget Street will show that change has certainly come.
Enter The Slaughter House on Frasier Street. Yes, Marsha’s 3-bedroom, 2-bath, 1,800-square-foot house really is named The Slaughter House, as historic homes often take the names of their first owners and hers was Dr. Martin Slaughter.
“It’s a great name for a doctor, right?!” Marsha said, with a laugh. “I thought when I bought it that maybe we need to try to change the name, but it just kind of stuck and we just have fun with it. We live in The Slaughter House, and I’m not sure many people can say that.”
According to Marsha, the home was built in 1845 by Dr. Slaughter and his family, though he wasn’t able to enjoy it long as he died at the young age of 52. The home changed hands several times before it landed in hers in the summer of 2019. It had even been converted into a duplex when she took on the renovations.
Marsha, who has two grown daughters, Olivia and Reagan Durham, and works in the front office of Marietta High School, was no stranger to renovating homes. She had completed the renovations on two homes on South Avenue in Marietta when she was at a dinner party and struck up a conversation with her friends Angela and Cliff Poston, whose family owns the 50-year-old residential development company Traton Homes. The company was in the process of building nearly 50 homes off of Marietta’s Frasier Street in a subdivision called Grammercy Park.
“We were talking about some of the other houses that I had renovated and I just started showing them some pictures and Cliff said, ‘You know, we have this home that we acquired as part of the deal for Grammercy Park. It’s a historic property, so we either have to move it because of its significance or we need to renovate it. And we’re in the business of building new homes, not renovating old ones.’ So the next morning, I got the keys and just knew it was a diamond in the rough – my diamond,” Marsha said.
But her diamond was one that needed a great deal of polishing. She knocked out the wall and doors in the front area that had made it a duplex, rewired the electrical work, worked with Cobb Landmarks & Historical Society to bring everything up to code and accomplished several feats before even beginning to beautify the 1845 home.
Marsha enlisted the help of two local Chrises – Chris Bailey and Chris Michaels – to serve as the general contractors for the restoration, a job she said they did beautifully but that she was also still very involved in, including her fair share of manual labor. Throughout the renovations, Marsha found many treasures, such as old support beams that needed replacing but found new uses in her home as tables and mantles, and tiny medicine bottles she thinks – hopes – were from Dr. Slaughter’s time with the home. She keeps the treasures on her kitchen island as a reminder of the home’s past, which she said also includes stories of serving as a Civil War hospital.
Today, Marsha is happy to make the cozy, historic home her own, and will often take advantage of the five-minute walk to the Marietta Square for the farmer’s market or to meet friends for a drink. She has also turned the home and its yards into entertaining spots for friends with quarterly outdoor concerts and chili cook-offs.
“I’ve flipped many homes, but it would be hard to turn the keys of this one over to someone else,” she said. “This is home.”