Sunday Conversation with Robert Meyers

Yankee with Southern roots shares love of Old Milton barns

Award winning author Robert Meyers, who prefers just Bob, has a special connection to the barns of north metro Atlanta. The retired communications executive also has been very involved with the new Milton library, which opened in July. Meyers has connected his two interests by donating to the library 15 large canvas images from his coffee table book, Bygone Treasures and Timeless Beauties: Barns of Old Milton County.

The images, being sold to support library programs, are right in keeping with the design of the four-building structure, which looks like a modern day version of a barn with an entrance that resembles a silo. One of the buildings incorporates wood siding preserved from a barn that once stood on the property and featured in Meyers’ book.

Q: Why the barn book?

A: My mother was from Alpharetta and ended up marrying a Yankee. I was raised up North but came down here every summer and visited with my Georgia kinfolk. Years later, by sheer coincidence, I moved here to accept a job with Scientific Atlanta. I found that all the barns I knew as a boy were without exception gone. I wanted to document the barns that are still here because they aren’t going to be here forever. I drove around Old Milton, knocking on doors, interviewing 250 people. I included some new horse barns because they are going to be the historic barns of tomorrow. I profiled 50 barns.

Q: Where have the barns gone?

A: Most of the barns that have disappeared were not built to last. Many of the farmers in this area were dirt farmers and quite poor. Because of the mild climate, they didn’t need to have strong stone foundations and buildings that would withstand the harsh northern winters.

Q: How has the book been received?

A: The first edition sold out in 30 days by word of mouth. People would knock on my door asking for it. People would read it and choke up because it brought back so many memories.

Q: How would you describe Milton to folks who have never been?

A: It is a very community-oriented place and still very pastoral and beautiful. The people and the city government are committed to maintaining this rural atmosphere, which doesn’t mean we don’t want orderly development. If I had to describe the city, it is green and family-friendly and people want to preserve that.

Q: Can you talk about the new library?

A: Fulton County passed a library bond referendum and Milton just opened its first library. County officials and the architects held meetings with the public and the result was the notion that the library should look like it belongs to this semi-rural community. The library is located on a farm featured in my book.

Q: What is your involvement with the library?

A: I belong to the board of directors of the The Friends of the Milton Library, which supports library services and programs. The Friends salvaged wood from one of the barns on the property and built a replica of it adjacent to the library. The building will be used to store donated books that we will then sell to support the library. We are probably the only Friends group anywhere with its own barn. My wife Linda and I also decided that we would donate the art canvases, which can be reproduced and sold in limited edition to raise money for the library.

Q: How does the community feel about having its very own library?

A: Everyone is thrilled. This is not your grandfather’s library. It has 70 computers, public meeting rooms, study rooms and special areas for teens and children. It has become a community center. Everyone loves the barn aspect as well. This is historic preservation of a special kind.

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