Nearly $4 million renovation begins on Mott House

Contractor Philip Thayer has personal connection to the Calhoun-Griffin-Mott House project

tadams@ledger-enquirer.comNovember 4, 2013 

The Mott House on the TSYS campus, built in 1839 overlooking the Chattahoochee River, was part of the Muscogee Manufacturing Company. TSYS has plans to restore the interior and use the historic building for meetings and other events. 08.20.13 ROBIN TRIMARCHI

The full-scale renovation of the historic Calhoun-Griffin-Mott House in Columbus is beginning, with the general contractor tackling the job having a personal connection to the property.

James Silas Calhoun, a former Columbus mayor who in the 1840s had the riverfront mansion constructed for his wife, Anna Howard Calhoun, is the great uncle of Philip Thayer, president of Thayer-Bray Construction.

“We’re excited to just have this as part of our family history and an opportunity to work on a house that my ancestors built years ago,” Thayer said Monday as work began in earnest on what will be a major project centered heavily on the structure’s interior.

A Columbus building permit taken out on the property at 1 TSYS Way indicates construction alone comes with a price tag of $3.987 million. The Calhoun-Griffin-Mott House is situated on the Columbus-based credit card processor’s downtown campus overlooking the Chattahoochee River.

That cost wouldn’t include furnishing the red-brick mansion that once was surrounded by a textile mill that carried the Muscogee Mills and Fieldcrest Cannon names through its history.

TSYS bought the property to erect its $100 million headquarters, which opened in 1999. It spent a reported $1.5 million around that time to shore up the aging antebellum home and make sure its walls wouldn’t crumble.

TSYS spokesman Cyle Mims said Monday the company is not prepared “at this time” to say how much the total renovation cost will be, although the firm does not expect to use any financing for the job.

“Regarding the National Register monitoring the project, the answer is no,” Mims said via email. “However, the local Board of Historic and Architectural Review (BHAR) has approved the plans and will monitor construction for the exterior of the building.”

The house, which will have about 13,000 square feet of interior space after the renovation, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

The outside of the home — commonly referred to more simply as the Mott House — is in “good shape,” said Thayer. It’s the inside that he and partner William Bray, who combined their companies about six months ago, hope to turn into a showpiece over the next 18 months.

TSYS said it plans to use the mansion as a company conference center for current and prospective TSYS clients, as well as a new place to meet for the credit-card processor’s board of directors.

“That house is actually the only remaining river mansion on the Chattahoochee left from Columbus down to the Gulf of Mexico that wasn’t burned during the Civil War ... It’s really going to be beautiful,” said Thayer, who will use as much of the original style and design of the house as possible.

For instance, the heart of pine floors that are more than a century old will be restored, while a centerpiece staircase will be rebuilt. Those elements will be complemented by modern high-tech systems and an elevator to whisk visitors and employees to the second and third floors.

Thayer said the biggest challenge for the project is the location, with the house so close to the TSYS corporate office and parking deck, and just off the Chattahoochee Riverwalk. The Frank K. Martin Pedestrian Bridge between Columbus and Phenix City also is nearby.

“There’s a lot of work going on in the area and coordinating all of that so that nobody runs into each other is a little bit of a challenge,” he said. “There’s a portion of the riverwalk that gets blocked off a little bit. But there will still be full access to 14th Street (and the bridge).”

His company’s hiring as the chief renovator of the Mott House aside, Thayer praised TSYS for investing in the “signature” historic structure. He said planning by the company and Columbus-based Hecht Burdeshaw Architects should ensure the work goes smoothly.

“I joke with people and say back when the house was built the textile mills were the technologically advanced business of the time,” Thayer said. “So for TSYS to renovate the house for the next 175 years seems appropriate with it being such a technologically advanced company.”

There’s also the legacy of those who originally constructed and inhabited the structure, including James S. Calhoun, the second mayor of Columbus who left the city in 1851 to take the job as the first governor of the New Mexico Territory. The sweeping expanse included what is now Arizona and a portion of Colorado.

Calhoun also served in the Georgia state senate and as the U.S. consul in Havana, Cuba, during his career. He died in 1852 while traveling back home to the East.

Built in 1841, the Mott House also was the residence of Columbus businessmen Daniel Griffin and Randolph Lawler Mott, the latter a serial entrepreneur, Union sympathizer and Columbus mayor pro tem. He purchased it in 1856, but was killed after falling in front of a train in Atlanta in 1881.

Related stories:

TSYS to restore historic Mott House overlooking Chattahoochee River

PHOTOS: The Mott House at TSYS

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