The peanut warehouse didn't make it, and neither did Cousin Beedie's worm farm or Brother Billy's gas station. But a group of Georgia congressmen is seeking to set aside a good-sized chunk of the rest of Plains, Ga., as a place of honor for the nation's 39th president.

It would be called the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site, and tourists would get to see not only the former president's current ranch-style abode but also his boyhood tennis court, next to the cottage west of town where he grew up.

Not to mention the old Plains High School where he got his book learning, the railroad depot that served as his first presidential campaign headquarters, and the facade of the old Wise Hospital, where James Earl Carter Jr. became the first American president not to have been born at home.

All the properties were selected by the Carter family, according to Cindy Gillespie, an aide to Rep. Richard B. Ray (D-Ga.), who introduced the bill with the co-sponsorship of the state's entire House delegation.

"This was the most comprehensive alternative, the one they felt would be the best," she said. "This was their final cut."

The high school "goes a little beyond" the normal definition of presidentially significant sites, Gillespie acknowledged. But she hastened to add: "It's not the present Plains High School. It's a vacant building. They want to put a museum in there."

Nevertheless, the proposed historic site appears designed to win even the approval of Cousin Cheap. Not counting the Carters' home, which they already have offered to donate to the National Park Service after their deaths, the cost of the properties was estimated in 1981 at $184,000.

Promoters of the project are hoping that most of the parcels will be acquired through donations, or purchased and preserved by private groups as has been the case with dozens of properties associated with other presidents.

The Carter site would encompass about 40 acres, as well as "sufficient interest" in 85 acres of road frontage near Carter's childhood home "to preserve its undeveloped and historic character."

By contrast, Herbert Hoover, another small-town president, is commemorated in West Branch, Iowa, with a 187-acre federal park that includes not only the two-room cottage where he was born but also a replica of his father's blacksmith shop and several restored 19th-century buildings.

Abraham Lincoln's birthplace, just south of Hodgenville, Ky., is a 116-acre federal park with a huge Greek Revival structure that houses a log cabin (which may or may not contain some of the original Lincoln logs).

If the Carter proposal is modest by those standards, however, it would still give the former president an edge over some of his predecessors in the edifice of history.

Consider Millard Fillmore. The log cabin in Cayuga County, N.Y., where the nation's 13th president was born in 1800 was demolished after the family was run off the land in a title dispute, according to the park service. His boyhood home, another log cabin nearby, "seems to have disappeared."

Likewise, his long-term residence in Buffalo was demolished, and the house in which he died, also in Buffalo, was razed to make way for a modern hotel.

Today, Fillmore buffs have only a fragment of a house in East Aurora, N.Y., to visit.

A private foundation purchased it and opened it to the public even though Fillmore lived there for only four years, the house has been moved twice and only a piece of the front is original.

Mindful, perhaps, of Fillmore's fate, presidential families and government historians started paying a little more attention to the former dwellings of presidents about 20 years ago.

The Johnson family set the pace in 1964 by purchasing LBJ's boyhood home in Johnson City, Tex., and reconstructing his birthplace cottage on the family ranch, more than 200 acres of which have been deeded to the park service for the Lyndon Baines Johnson National Historical Park.

John F. Kennedy's birthplace, bought and restored by the family in 1966, also is now in federal hands.

Some of the best-known presidential houses -- including George Washington's Mount Vernon -- are operated by private groups, however. The government likes to encourage that kind of private-sector initiative, for an obvious reason: while history will little note nor long remember the difference between a "national historic landmark" and a "national historic site," the Office of Management and Budget will.

The operating costs for some federal sites are relatively low (JFK's birthplace, for example, cost the government $81,000 in 1983, the most recent figures available, and Theodore Roosevelt's birthplace in downtown Manhattan cost $104,000), but others run into some real money. The LBJ ranch, for example, was budgeted at $1.45 million in 1983.

Since the Johnson administration, the Interior Department has made it a practice to ask former presidents to nominate their own commemorative sites. Dwight D. Eisenhower picked his farm near Gettysburg, Pa., citing it as the only home he and Mamie ever owned. The farm was deeded to the government in 1967, although the Eisenhowers continued to use it until their deaths in 1969 and 1979.

Harry S Truman initially declined to designate anything, but eventually agreed to let the park service designate his Independence, Mo., home and the surrounding neighborhood a national historical district.

Richard M. Nixon's birthplace in Yorba Linda, Calif., and Ronald Reagan's boyhood home in Dixon, Ill., have been purchased by private groups, although neither is yet open to the public. Gerald R. Ford's birthplace in Omaha, Neb., burned several years before he became president, but the site is commemorated by a city-owned park.