Oak damages house built by Albany founder

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

ALBANY, Ga. -- The owner of a historic Albany home is packing up her valuables and preparing for what could be a long cleanup process after a massive oak crashed into the home Thursday afternoon.

The home, which was built by Albany founder Nelson Tift in 1886, was partially knocked off its foundation when the tree fell during a Thursday storm.

Owner Jean Graham was inside the home but uninjured when the tree fell around 5 p.m.

"I was back in the kitchen area when the storm came up," she said. "Then I heard just a loud cracking sound and a crash."

Tree limbs crashed through windows on the northern side of the home, scattering glass shards throughout the rooms on that side of the house and demolishing part of the home's trademark front porch.

Workers were helping Graham pack up some of the more valuable antiques in the home Friday for transit to another location as Graham prepared to begin what could be a tedious cleanup effort.

While the home was built by Tift, Thronateeska Heritage Museum Director Tommy Gregors said it doesn't appear that Tift ever actually lived there.

"He was in the habit of building homes for family members and built a few in that same area," Gregors said.

Born in Groton, Conn., in 1810, Tift found himself in the South trying to grow a mercantile business. In 1836 he founded Albany and spent much of the remainder of his life building the infrastructure that would cause the city to become the retail capital of Southwest Georgia.

A colonel in the Baker County Militia, Tift served as captain in the Confederate Naval Supply Department, building gunboats during the Civil War, and was elected to Congress during reconstruction but served less than a year.

Tift would serve multiple terms in the Georgia Legislature and would end up retiring in his later years to Albany, where he died in 1891.