Old Sugar Hill house the perfect set for photo
For more than two years, an abandoned house near
Sugar Hill has been brought to life by photographer
old house, built around the turn of the century, has
been the romantic setting of several award-winning
portraits. One portrait of an engaged couple, taken
about a month before their wedding and titled "Country
Love," recently won first-place award from the
Southeastern Professional Photographers of America.
Ms. McGaughey has worked as a professional photographer
in the Atlanta area for more than 20 years, specializing
in wedding albums and environmental protraits. Four
years ago, she moved her studio and residence to a
cottage she purchased in Suwanee.
The photographer first noticed the old house about
two and a half years ago when she was driving an engaged
couple to Buford Dam to take some photographs. The
house, which used to be owned by the Pirkle family,
is located on Suwanee-Buford Dam road north of Georgia
"I just stopped right in the middle of the road
when I saw the house," Ms. McGaughey said. What
she saw was a one-story, frame house with gingerbread
trim and a porch which ran along the entire front
of the house. A barn and a trail leading into the
woods were located off to the side of the house. She
knew at first glance that the rustic setting of the
house and barn would be an ideal backdrop for her
"The home and location reek with warmth and
intrigue," she said.
The house is also blessed with having true northeast
lighting, which is an artist's dream, the photographer
"For artists, it takes northeast light to create
perfect environmental protraits," she said. "With
this location, there is even a dash of sunset. Everything
is always golden."
The photographer uses the old house, which is located
near her studio, as the setting for many of her portraits.
The engaged couples and families she photographs there
wear western or casual attire, in keeping with the
mood of the setting.
The old house has become Ms. McGaughey's signature,
known both locally and in professional circles. Her
colleagues around the country have come to recognize
the old house, which is the setting of many of the
protraits she enters in professional photographic
competitions. And many of her clients form all over
the north Georgia area ask to have their portraits
made by the old house, the photographer said.
But she soon may have to find a new setting for her
portraits. Ms McGaughey recently found out the 275-acre
tract on which the house sits is about to be sold
to the city of Sugar Hill. The city plans to build
a sewage treatment plant on the site after the sale
of the property is completed within the next couple
Ms. McGaughey said she tried to buy the house and
some of the property from the large development company
that purchased it from the Pirkle family but the price
was more than she could afford. Buying the house and
moving it also proved to be too expensive. Her only
hope now is that the house be preserved by Sugar Hill
once the city gains ownership of it.
Sugar Hill Mayor George Haggard said city officials
are aware of the house but have not yet discussed
what they plan to do with it.
"I would be in favor of preserving the house
in some way," said the mayor, who was active
in Savannah's preservation efforts before he came
But Haggard said the house probably will have to
be moved if it's to be saved, because the city may
need all of the property it's buying for the sewer
plant. In any case, the mayor said he hopes to gain
ownership of the house before it is further damaged
So far, a fireplace mantel and a stained glass window
have been taken from the house. The window shutters
and doors have also been removed. And the inside of
the house is filled with trash and debris.
Ms. McGaughey said she is saddened by the fact that
the old house may not be saved but takes comfort in
knowing it will be preserved in her portraits.
"It's nice to know a piece of the old house
is going home with the public," the photographer
Linda Abell, "Picture this," Gwinnett
Daily News, 8 March 1988.