Marietta wants to preserve 19th century tannery run by first mayor

Marietta tannery ruins. Jennifer Brett/
Marietta tannery ruins. Jennifer Brett/

The city of Marietta is exploring what can be done to save the last reminders of a business once run by its first mayor in the 1840s.

Remnants of the Glover-Wilder Tannery still stand on land owned by Jane and Bruce Kyburz, who have lived in their Kennesaw Avenue home for 41 years. The Kyburzs want to sell their 3.5-acre property and home, but hope what’s left of the 19th century business will be preserved for future generations to see.

Jane Kyburz said her research shows the tannery produced about 7,000 tanned hides each year. It was destroyed by Union soldiers in the Civil War, she said, but its walls remain standing and are visible to drivers along Kennesaw Avenue.

“It’s hard to imagine a tannery in Cobb County,” Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin said. “I don’t know how it’s still standing.”

Marietta tannery ruins. Jennifer Brett/
Marietta tannery ruins. Jennifer Brett/

Tumlin has added a proposal to purchase the land holding the tannery to a list of projects that would be funded with Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax revenue, if it’s approved by voters. The SPLOST referendum is expected to go on the ballot in November.

City Manager Bill Bruton said the cost to acquire the tannery property has not been determined.

“A purchase would not be able to take place until after the SPLOST passed and money was available,” he added. If the SPLOST is approved, those sales tax collections would start on Jan. 1, 2022.

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Cobb Landmarks Executive Director Trevor Beemon said the tannery was once part of Oakton Estates, which also included a home that was constructed in the 1830s. The tannery, operated by Marietta’s first mayor, John Heyward Glover, and businessman John Wilder, opened sometime in the 1840s.

Beemon said not much information on the tannery is available, but the business was open long before Marietta’s original depot opened in 1864. However, a large portion of the structure has collapsed over the last 30 to 40 years, leaving just two walls.

Marietta tannery ruins. Jennifer Brett/
Marietta tannery ruins. Jennifer Brett/

Kyburz said she and her husband have had many people stop and check out the remnants. She said the site is an opportunity to preserve a piece of history that precedes the Civil War.

“A lot of cities in the South don’t have that,” she said. “It’s our past, and I’m not one for wiping out our past.”

Beemon said Cobb Landmarks volunteers have worked with the Kyburzs to remove vines and evasive plants that could damage the old walls. In the future, the organization would like to figure out a way to stabilize what’s the stonework and install fencing around the structure. Beemon said the area would be nice to develop into a park featuring greenspace.

“People who know about it and appreciate it would be happy just to know that it’s going to be there and it’s not going to be developed or it’s not going to collapse from age,” he said.

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