A Town With A New Beginning

Photo by Eric D Bower

Photo by Eric D Bower

For many who reside in the tiny mining town of Atlanta, Idaho the attraction is not discovering gold, but the prospect of saving and restoring historic buildings. Here, the town’s restoration efforts begin with historian and artist Kerry Moosman.

Barber Shop Restoration

Barber Shop Restoration

Just as many mining towns developed, Atlanta became home to pioneers, confederates, miners, business men, and homesteaders. But unlike most of those towns today, Atlanta has found its place and relevance both in its history and its contemporary condition. Now residents, students, instructors, and artists follow in the perseverance and foresight of Kerry Moosman, saving the town’s history, board by board.

Born and raised in Atlanta, Kerry Moosman has always had a keen interest in the pioneers that built and lived in this rugged and isolated place. A ceramic artist by trade —with hand-built, clay vessels on view at both the Boise and Portland Art Museums— Kerry has been researching and preserving Atlanta’s history for more than four decades.

Moosman has moved, rebuilt and restored many buildings, among them a dramatic restoration feat which involved shoring-up, raising onto skids, and dragging the Company House precariously down Pine Street. Formerly home to a mining official at the turn of the last century, the Company House, a two-room structure with outrageously high ceilings now lodges Artist-in-Residents the summer months.

Moosman’s impressive restoration list includes, the pioneer cemetery, a jailhouse, a school house, a barber shop, a historic gas station, a small structure rumored to have been an early brothel, a bath house, a chicken coop, a log cabin that had fallen into its own cellar, a large barn, the Atlanta Club (twice), the aforementioned Company House, the “Cindy Bowl”, the “Heidi Bowl” and the old five-room Briggs house (his first project), a beautifully restored time capsule of life in the 1800’s.

Walk into the Atlanta Club —where Kerry lives in the summer months— and find rare collections of pottery, crystal goblets, historic photographs, maps, news clippings, and artifacts belonging to the town’s 156 year history. Pull up a bar stool and hear tales of Peg-Leg Annie and other colorful characters who once called Atlanta home. Become immersed in accounts of wildfires, anecdotes of being an artist, town gossip, and if you’re lucky the old Victrola may be playing The Ink Spots in the background. Visit the “Gas Station” (also known as the “Thrift Store”) and find an incredible collection of antiques that Kerry might consider unsuitable for his meticulous taste, yet incredible finds for an undiscerning eye.

With every building restored, chair mended, conversation had, photograph unearthed, gravestone preserved, Atlanta lives on. Once on the brink of ruination, this town has been given a second chance in redefining its future.

There is history here, why be anywhere else?

-Rachel Reichert & Amy O’Brien

Read more about Kerry Moosman:

Creator’s, Maker’s, & Doers’s

Idaho Arts Quarterly

US & World News