Lee Lusk, owner and CEO of The Wheeler House, remembers vividly as a 5-year-old asking his parents to drive the long way home so they could pass by the “big yellow house,” dreaming of the day he could own and renovate the historic home.
“The house had always been in bad shape,” Lusk recalled. “For 21 years it had sat dormant.”
Built in 1906 by the owner of the Wheeler Lumber Yard in Ball Ground, the house had been foreclosed upon multiple times over the years, and though Lusk had twice been outbid, the third time was the charm.
“After I bought the house, I did a full overhaul; from the roof to the foundation was redone and everything in between,” Lusk said. “Everything was returned to its original, historic state. I just love history, and I think it needs to be preserved instead of changed.”
In 2011, The Wheeler House Wedding Venue opened its doors to its first wedding. That same year, Lusk also won a Cherokee County Preservation Award for its restoration.
“I was going to live here originally, but I did have the idea of making it a wedding venue,” Lusk said. “When I bought the property in 2010, lots of my friends were getting married at that time, and I knew I could do it better and cheaper.”
In 2013, Lusk added a barn, including a spacious dance floor that serves as the reception site and as an option for a ceremony site, if a bride chooses to be married outdoors under the venue’s arbor. The arbor, by the way, is modeled after the arbor seen at the end of the movie “The Hangover.”
“What sets us apart from competitors is most barns are not centrally heated and cooled, but ours is,” Lusk said. “We offer basically every single thing out there, and I feel we have everything I wanted in 2010, we have today.”
The Wheeler House can accommodate up to 350 guests, and during peak season, the venue hosts three to five ceremonies every weekend.
“We don’t just push the bride through,” he said. “We take the time to get to know them, and we want them to leave knowing they’re special and it was their day.”
Most recently, Lusk has purchased 22 adjoining acres and renovated three cottages that were built by the original homeowner, John Wheeler, for employees of his lumber yard. The cottages can be rented by brides who want to stay the entire weekend.
“Coming in 2017, or maybe 2018, we want to build a vineyard on the extra land behind the cottages and do another wedding venue,” Lusk said. “One day we see a whole community built around The Wheeler House and vineyard, a community like Serenbe.”
Serenbe is a “new urban” village, located within the city limits of Chattahoochee Hills, in south Fulton County.
Just before Lusk opened the doors of The Wheeler house, he was contacted by a television show that wanted to shoot an episode there. He recalls the show had something to do with ghosts, but he took a pass, noting the only thing supernatural about The Wheeler House is the service.
“I’ve never had any incidents of ghosts,” he said. “I told (the TV show) we don’t want gloomy thoughts and black dresses. We want brides with happy thoughts and white dresses!”
Photography by Kathryn Ingall