Wise Sanatorium No. 1 - A.C. Wellons Building, Plains Georgia
According to the 1916 article "Wellons Building Store at
Plains," in the Americus Daily Times Recorder:
"It is said the building was first intended for a hotel, but has been changed for Wise's sanatorium and that when ready for occupancy will be used for this purpose. . . The Wellons Building will have eighteen or more rooms on the second floor and when finished will not only be one of the prettiest in the thriving little city of Plains, but would be a credit to a much larger city."
The Wise Hospital did occupy the second floor of the building until it burned, just before the completion of the new Wise Sanitarium on Hospital Street. Ruth Godwin recalled having her first son at this hospital, which she said had several nurses, a kitchen, and a dining room. She also remembers sitting on a porch overlooking Main Street during her recovery. A single door is extant in the seventh bay of the second floor of the front facade corroborating the existence of such a porch.
The store fronts beneath the hospital housed various businesses over the years. The east half served for a time as the dentist office of Seymour Evans, and was also a barber shop, a pharmacy and a grocery store. In 1934, James Earl Carter, Jimmy Carter's father, rented the space and began his peanut warehouse business, finally purchasing the east portion in 1943. When Jimmy Carter returned to Plains in 1953 to run the business, he also used this space for storage and recalls practicing one of his favorite hobbies, woodworking, in the back of the store on slow days. W.L. Thomas ran an insurance agency in a booth in the west portion of the east section. Carter used the building as his campaign headquarters when he ran for senator and governor. The sign on the second story, painted during his gubernatorial campaign by Plains resident, Jerry Roberts, originally said "Plains Georgia, Home of Jimmy Carter, Our Next Governor." The bottom line was soon changed to "Governor of Georgia," then to "Our Next President," and finally to "Our 39th President." During the 1976 presidential campaign, press offices were located in the back of the building.
The west half has also had a variety of tenants. In 1976, when Plains became a tourist mecca, the Back Porch Cafe was opened by Angie Stevens. The space was renovated to serve as a restaurant and Rosalynn Carter presided over opening ceremonies for the establishment August 5, 1976. After the restaurant closed, Frances Gift Shop briefly occupied the space in the 1980s.
A fire around 1920 gutted the second story, although the first floor was unharmed. A sloped roof was added over the gutted section, cutting off much of the usable area. When Williams purchased the building, he refurbished the front area of the second floor over the west half of the building; rewiring, painting over charred areas and adding linoleum-tile floors and dropped, acoustical tile ceilings. The first floor of the west side was altered in 1976 when it became the Back Porch Cafe. A decorative divider was erected in the center of the room and a partitioned kitchen and restroom were placed in the back. Acoustical ceilings were also added on the first floor of the east portion.
This two-story, rectangular building is approximately 55' x 100'. The facade has seven bays on the second floor while two storefronts share the first story. The east storefront is 30'-10" with four bays, the west storefront is 24'-0" with three bays.