ROSWELL, Ga. — Dozens of residents, community leaders, and state and city representatives flocked to Mimosa Hall June 20 to celebrate the installation of a former White House solar panel at the city’s historic home.
The event was held on the 40-year anniversary of the original White House solar panel installation in 1979 under President Jimmy Carter.
During Carter’s dedication speech, he said that the White House would have still-working renewable energy by 2000, said Meredith Evans, director of the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum.
But a few years later, the White House solar panels were taken down when Ronald Reagan became president. Unity College in Maine had the foresight to obtain and preserve the 32 solar panels, Evans said.
This year, the Friends of Mimosa Hall & Gardens entered a long-term loan agreement with Unity College to display one of the original White House solar panels at Mimosa Hall.
Carter is very appreciative of the project and still pushing for renewable energy, Evans said.
The White House panel will not be installed on the roof. Instead, the Friends group is considering integrating it in the house for a smaller purpose, such as heating some hot water, said Friends of Mimosa Hall & Gardens board member Steve Gibson.
“We want to get some energy out of it,” he said. “We’re going to figure out a way to do that.”
The installation ceremony was part of the group’s larger vision to install a solar roof on Mimosa Hall that will supply all the building’s energy.
Once the solar roof is installed, Mimosa Hall will become the oldest solar powered building in the nation, Gibson said.
Mimosa Hall, a Greek Revival mansion, was built in 1841 for John Dunwoody, one of the founders of Roswell. In 1918, Atlanta architect J. Neel Reid bought the home and transformed five of the acres into formal gardens. Of the 15 garden rooms Reid created on the property, 13 survive today.
The property has special significance to the Carter family as Carter’s aunt, Emily Dolvin, lived across the street from Mimosa Hall, Gibson said.
Roswell Architect Simone du Boise, principal of Cadmus Construction, is implementing restoration designs for the Mimosa Hall solar panels. The Friends group has already raised the bulk of the necessary funds and is $24,000 away from its goal, Gibson said.
Once installed, the solar panels are expected to save the city about $5,000 a year.
Mimosa Hall’s restoration almost didn’t happen, Gibson said.
“This property could have gone to development and could have been 53 houses as was proposed,” he said. “Instead, we’re going to have the nation’s oldest net-zero property and a beautiful space for the citizens of Roswell to have for generations to come.”