But there it sat, overgrown with thick vines, trees and vegetation. Dilapidated, deteriorating and difficult to see from the street, the church recently purchased the tract of land, the home, shed and all of the contents to make way for a new parking lot.
"It's amazing to think someone was still living in that house as recently as last July," said Jeannie Williamson, whose mother is Mary Stella Woolfolk-Williamson and who is related to the home's original owner, Mary Lilley de Bretton-Mills.
De-Bretton Mills, who had no children, willed the home to her housekeeper, who in turn left it to her daughter who was bought out by First Baptist Church just a few months ago.
"I contacted the church when I learned from my mother’s brother (Martin Woolfolk) that the house had been sold and was going to be demolished. I remember from childhood that Ms. de Bretton-Mills, and her home, were immaculate...she never threw out anything. It was really just a shot in the dark that there was something in there," Williamson said.
She was hoping perhaps a small momento such as a family Bible or photo would be discovered, so she contacted Pastor Reggie Bridges and asked him to be on the lookout for anything of value.
Sure enough, after Bridges and an associate toured the property, he contacted Williamson to say they literally had stumbled upon something. "The floors in the old shed were in such bad shape, my associate fell through the floorboards," Bridges said.
What Bridges found - and what Williamson would soon sort through - were boxes upon boxes of handwritten letters, envelopes, postcards and personal paperwork of de Bretton's, as well as clippings from newspapers and magazines dating back as early as 1907. Pamphlets from WWs I and II and memorabilia on Eisenhower, Kennedy and Fear of Communism were discovered.
About six boxes containing 40-50 years of memories were found in remarkably pristine condition. "Our family owes Pastor Bridges and his associates a deep debt of gratitude for taking the initiative to go into that shed," Williamson said.
Her family hopes to archive the contents in an effort to preserve their family history.