The Ware-Lyndon House is a circa 1840s late Greek Revival home with Italianate influence. It is the last remaining house in Lickskillet, the once fashionable 19th century in-town neighborhood. The main house features a historic house museum and a 1990s addition holds the Lyndon House Arts Center, which is operated by the Athens-Clarke County Department of Leisure Services.
The Ware-Lyndon House Committee oversees the decorative arts collection housed in the house museum and partners with the Lyndon House Arts Center in planning educational programming and fundraisers as well as in developing interpretive methods for the house and training docents. An ACHF liaison serves as the board representative on the committee.
Below is an excerpt from the Ware-Lyndon House Album, Lyndon House Arts Center, 2013.
Ware-Lyndon House through the Years
The Ware-Lyndon House Album illustrates the many transformations a historic house can pass through during 170 years. And in the case of Ware-Lyndon House, it explains how a once grand home can go through an incredible number of different uses to come full circle to become grand once again.
Dr. Edward Rowell Ware moved to Athens in 1829 to practice medicine. He quickly became one of Athens’ leading businessmen and built Ware-Lyndon House CA 1840. His wife, Elizabeth Ware, made their elegant home one of the centers of Athens social life. In 1848 Dr. Ware was elected the first mayor of Athens and served four consecutive one-year terms.
In the mid-1850s the Wares updated their Classic Greek Revival home. Among the many changes were the additions of Italianate marble mantles, ornate plasterwork and gas lighting to the inside and intricate ironwork to the porch and Italianate brackets under the eaves on the outside. Ware-Lyndon House was untouched by the Civil War, and Dr. Ware served in the Athens Home Guard, called the Thunderbolts, that helped protect Athens. In 1870 he sold off part of his property for the new Northeastern Railroad Depot. He died in 1873.
In 1880 Dr. Edward Smith Lyndon purchased the house from the Ware heirs. Lyndon Family updated the house again, applying decorative Victorian murals, stenciling and grain-painted finishes on the woodwork, walls and ceilings. Ware- Lyndon dining room retains many of these intact Victorian decorations.
Dr. Lyndon was a pharmacist, practiced medicine and owned several successful businesses in Athens. He died in 1917. He left all property to their daughter, Mrs. Moselle Lyndon Burke. In 1920 the Lyndon heirs removed many of the original architectural elements from the house and moved to Washington, Georgia, where they built a new home. Ware-Lyndon House became rental property and was managed by the Lyndon-Burke Realty Company from 1920 to 1938.
In 1939 the home was purchased by the City of Athens with Playground Bond Money for recreational purposes, and during World War II it was a U.S.O. After the war it housed many government offices, including the Veterans Administration, Red Cross and Labor Department. In the 1950s the house became headquarters for the newly formed City of Athens Recreation Department and was used for community youth programs, dances and social gatherings.
Also during this time, the Federal Urban Renewal Project removed the out-buildings on Ware-Lyndon property and most of the remaining homes in the area. In the 1960s Model Cities funds were used to repair the house, and the facility became an Athens Recreation Department recreation center.
In 1974, since there was no community competitive art exhibition in Athens, Ronnie Lukasiewicz, MFA student at UGA, organized the “Joy of Art” exhibition, cosponsored by the Athens Recreation and Parks Department and local artists. Because of the success of this exhibition, Lyndon House became the visual arts center for Athens. The downstairs was used as a gallery and the upstairs for art classes. Festivals, art group meetings and special events in the arts took place in the entire house. Lyndon House Arts Center quickly became one of the most successful art centers in the state and gained national recognition. Because of the popularity of the exhibitions, classes and programs during the 1980s and ’90s, the center could no longer meet the visual arts needs of the community.
In the mid-1990s Lyndon House Arts Foundation, Inc., was founded. This organization raised funds for schematic plans of a greatly expanded arts center to be connected to Lyndon House. In 1994 this six-million dollar plan to restore the historic house and expand the arts center was approved by the citizens of Athens-Clarke County as a part of a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) package.
The 30,000-square-foot addition was designed by the prestigious architectural firm of KressCox in Washington, DC, and incorporated a great deal of community input. All art classes and exhibitions were to be moved to the new construction, allowing the original Ware-Lyndon House to be renovated as a period house museum that would interpret the periods of the Ware and Lyndon families along with exhibits of Athens history for the enjoyment of local citizens and visitors.
Over the next four years, Ware-Lyndon House Advisory Committee, which included two family descendants, researched, planned and secured special furnishings, decorative arts and architectural details that defined the period chosen for each room. The house museum was almost complete when the SPLOST project opened in August of 1999; restoration of the hidden wall murals in the dining room was finished almost two years later. In 2003 Lyndon House Arts Foundation, Inc. transferred ownership of Ware-Lyndon House Decorative Arts Collection to the Athens-Clarke Heritage Foundation, Inc., which continues to manage it. Today, in full circle, much of the historic grandeur has been returned to the original house and it is recognized as one of the most authentic 19th-century house museums in Georgia. It is an integral part of Lyndon House Arts Center, working in partnership on tours and educational programs as a community resource on 19th-century architecture and decorative arts.