Clarkesville – Habersham County – This week we head to Clarkesville, the first summer resort town in Northeast Georgia. Wealthy families from the Georgia and South Carolina coast came here to escape malaria and the summer heat.
Clarkesville was chartered in 1823
First up this week is Joseph Habersham Summer Home. Active in Georgia politics, he was mayor of Savannah in the late 1700s, and served on the Georgia delegation that ratified the U.S. Constitution in 1788. President George Washington appointed him the first Postmaster General.
Gloaming Cottage was built in 1840 by Jarvis Van Buren, first cousin to President Martin Van Buren. This carpenter Gothic home was his personal residence. He built many homes in the area, as we will see.
The Houston-Franklin House was originally built in Turnerville and moved 13 miles to it’s present location around 1900. Once moved here, it served as a boarding house.
Just a little ways out of town is Sunnyside Farm, originally built in 1834. This house was moved to its present 30 acre location sometime in the 1850s. I’m always amazed how houses were moved over 100 years ago. This house was renovated by Jarvis Van Buren. Terry and Laura Rogers, the current owners have made major renovations and additions to the house to have a more antebellum farm look. The Rogers’ were gracious hosts and showed us interesting historical details of the home.
The back porch of Sunnyside is as picture perfect as the rest of the house. Don’t you just wanna sit out here?
The Charm House below, was originally called Oak Heights. It was built for W.R. Asbury, who was a merchant and later founded Habersham Bank. He also owned the first automobile in Clarkesville. Over the years, The Charm House was converted to a hospital, later a B&B and restaurant – and finally back to a single family home.
Here’s a look at the house when it was brand new. It shows this mansion’s massive side porch.
A special part of the tour was an organ concert at Grace-Calvary Episcopal Church. The families who vacationed in Clarkesville to get away from the summers in Savannah and Charleston founded this church. The church features box-style pews, which I have not seen before.
I mentioned the organ concert – it’s reported to be the oldest working church instrument in Georgia! The history here is just amazing – it was purchased in 1848 by a ladies’ group in the church for $500. It took a week to arrive by ox cart from Savannah – and when installed, they found it was a foot too tall for the balcony! That led to Jarvis Van Buren being employed again to lower the center of the balcony to accommodate the organ.
Our final stop this week is the Toombs-Bleckley House. Originally General Robert Toombs (who hailed from Washington, Georgia) had a summer home here. The house later burned, and Judge Bleckley built the current home on the site.
Bleckley enrolled at UGA – at age 73!
I read up a bit on Judge Bleckley, and he led a fascinating life. As Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court, the entire court would often meet at his house to write their decisions. Most surprising was learning that he took a mathematics course at the University of Georgia – at age 73! Imagine attending college at that age.
There are several more historic homes in Clarkesville that we didn’t get to see this time, looking forward to visiting there again! Thanks so much for coming along on the tour this week, appreciate you reading the blog.