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Old home, business demolished for office

A lot of old buildings around downtown Brookhaven have beengiven new life.

This one was given death.

The old home at 120 East Chickasaw St. that for years housedHaag’s Florist and the Oak Tree restaurant is being demolished,knocked down wall-by-wall to make room for a local company’s newoffice building.

The windows and doors, appliances and furniture were pulled outahead of time. Now the steel bucket of a trackhoe is slammingthrough the roof and hardwood, destroying a home and place ofbusiness that has stood in Brookhaven for a time some say is morethan 100 years.

“I’m just not going to drive by and see that part. The bucketslamming would be like it was slamming into my stomach,” saidHarriet Haag Proffitt, who lived in the house until she was 31.”Haag’s flower shop is such a very positive memory – and that nowis what we have.”

Proffitt said her grandfather, Ralph Haag, purchased theone-story home in 1945 when he came back from World War II, wherehe served in the U.S. Marine Corps. A mortician by day, he ran aflower shop on the house’s front porch on the side, making it afull-time business in 1946.

The business would eventually be taken over by Proffitt’sfather, Bill Haag, Sr. He would continue operating the flowerbusiness until his death in 1981. The business closed shortlyafterward in 1982 after 36 years.

The old home would come under the ownership of Betsy Jones for ashort time in the early 1990s when she opened up part of theButterfield Art Gallery there. Though she would only use the homefor about six months, it was long enough to teach around 600students.

“It was not modern at all, but it had spacious rooms and it wasvery well built,” Jones recalled. “I’m sorry they are tearing itdown. Progress is wonderful, but you lose something in exchange forthe advancement.”

The current generation of Brookhavenites may best remember thehouse as the site of the Oak Tree restaurant, which operated fromthe mid-1990s under the ownership of the Floyd family before it wasbought by Bruce Crane and Marty Walker in 2008. But business took afatal turn in 2010.

“The bottom line is the economic downturn – we would like tothink that’s the reason the business fell off,” Crane said. “Wemade a very difficult decision, moreso for our employees thananything. It was just a matter of fact we had to close. It was notthe way we wanted it to happen.”

Crane said every effort was made to avoid demolishing the oldhouse.

“We tried donating it to a church. We tried selling it. We triedmoving it. Nobody wanted to come in and move the building becauseof the cost,” he said.

The only answer was to tear down a piece of old-time Brookhaven.The house that served as the site of the restaurant, flower shopand art studio is quite old, but no one seems to know how old.

Crane said previous owner Hilda Ray Floyd told him the house wasbuilt in the mid-1800s and served as a hospital during the CivilWar. Proffitt has no records that show when the house wasbuilt.

But the house itself yielded a few clues.

“When I was tearing up the floor I found square nails, and Ihear they quit using those in 1908,” said Keith Smith of Smith’sConstruction, who prepared the house for demolition. “It’s gotcyprus floors, and that’s going to date it back there. There’s1-inch tongue and groove joints under there, and I’ve never seenthat before.”

Once the house is removed, Dungan Engineering, PA, willconstruct a new office on the site in a year. Wesson contractorRoberts and Son Dozer and Gravel is in charge of knocking thebuilding down.

“The building didn’t fit our needs for an office,” Holmes said.”We’re planning a new office that will fit in with downtown.There’s a lot of beautiful old buildings downtown, and we want tocomplement those buildings.”