Where else but in Atlanta could a slave-turned-barber become the city's first black millionaire?

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Earlier this year, though, the foundation that oversees the Herndon Home fired the staff and closed the mansion, a national historic landmark that operated as a museum open to the public.

With no one to care for the building, it now faces another problem: Water damage caused by a leaky roof.

Hardest hit was the music room, one of the most memorable in the two-story 15-room white-columned mansion.

Heavy rains weakened a plaster wall, causing an 18th-century oil painting to fall to the floor and a section of wallpaper to peel away from the wall. A valuable Persian rug and the gilded Louis XV-style baby grand piano were also damaged. So, too, was a silk-covered piano bench.

Ken Thomas, a historian with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources' Historic Preservation Division, blames the Herndon Foundation's trustees for the tens of thousands of dollars of damage.

"They shouldn't have shut the place without any staff. That's the worst thing you can do," he said. "You don't just shut the door and not have maintenance."

Norris Edwards, a cousin of Alonzo Herndon, the former slave who built the house, was appalled to hear of the mansion's current state.

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