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The safe is open at last

By Walter Geiger The long-sealed safe at the home of Jean and Charles Dukes on Thomaston Street has been opened after the arduous chore of drilling through thick cobalt steel. The contents fell short of the fortune of a winning lottery ticket, however. The safe was supposed to be opened at the Lamar Arts Silent Auction last month but proved far too tough for that deadline. ’It was sort of a disappointment, I guess, but at least it wasn’t empty,’ Jean said Sunday. ‘All the documents inside were dated about 1913. It looked like Walter B. Smith, who built the house, used the safe for contracts and documents then never went back into the safe much after that.’ The contracts were for the design and construction of the house at 530 Thomaston Street. The architect was Alfred Wachendorf, who also designed the Lamar County courthouse and Crawford Long Hospital in Atlanta where all five of the Dukes’ children were born. The contracts were with the Barnesville Planing Mill which built numerous historic district homes and subcontractors for steam heating, plumbing, decorators and the firm which constructed the home’s ornate mantels. There were keys to the front door, a skeleton key, a watch fob with a dime on one end with the initials JGS for Jackson G. Smith, famed Buggy manufacturer and father of Walter B. There was one valuable looking package wrapped in brown paper with a string around it. It turned out to be canceled checks written on The Bank of Barnesville by Mrs. Jackson G. Smith all of which were dated around 1906. The only thing of real value was an 1899 silver dollar. A web search indicated it was the least valuable of such coins minted that year, however. The safe did contain the last will and testament of Walter B. Smith and a First National Bank stock certifi cate. ‘As of 2010, that is worthless, too,’ Jean noted. All the artifacts will go to the Old Jail Museum and local historians Shanna English and Tim Turner are highly interested in perusing them. Now, the clean-up is underway. Drilling through the four-inch steel walls of the safe left a layer of soot throughout the home but, at last, the mystery is solved.

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