Athens, Ga – Clarke County – As I stood outside admiring this Milledge Avenue mansion, I got curious about the Fleming family that built this house back in 1890. The more I learned about the family, the more interesting this Queen Anne House became. Oh the stories this house could tell! First a private home, later a fraternity house and now a sorority house.
Looking at the house, it’s obvious this home is very grand, and has all the “extra” embellishment of Victorian mansions. Mrs. Joseph Henry Fleming saw a similar home in a magazine, and asked her brother – noted local architect W.W. Thomas – to build it for her. The 3 story tower on the right is a favorite feature – all the decorative woodwork details show no expense was spared when this house was built.
Joseph and Alice Fleming
Mr. Joseph Henry Fleming (1853-1906) was one of the “who’s who” in Athens society. Fleming was a prominent merchant in town (along with being an officer in a local bank, and in several other businesses) – in fact, when he passed away in 1906 all of the stores in Athens closed for 2 hours in his honor.
The President is Next Door!
To the right of Fleming House, a similar Victorian mansion once stood. In 1909, a reception for US President-Elect William Howard Taft was hosted by UGA next door at the Welch mansion. Why? UGA didn’t have a President’s House at that time, and Milledge Avenue had the grandest homes in Athens. Sadly, there was a fire many years later and the Welch mansion was demolished.
Alice Cary Thomas Fleming
Alice Cary Thomas Fleming (1854-1911) was quite well known in Athens. Her family started Southern Mutual Insurance Company (which is still around!), and her brother W.W. Thomas built some of the grand Victorian mansions of Athens. The Flemings had 3 children who grew up in this home.
Mrs. Fleming died suddenly in 1911, and the news of her death took 1 entire column on the front page of the newspaper. She had been out calling on friends, and while walking home had a shortness of breath. She had to stop and rest a couple of times along the sidewalk of Milledge Avenue. Within 30 minutes of getting home, she died of heart failure.
Fleming House Interior
Fortunately we have some interior photos of the home. While this was a fraternity house at the time, look beyond the décor and you can see the grandeur and detail of this home.
Lucy Cary Fleming (1889-1974) led quite the interesting life. Learning about the people who lived in these old houses always brings the story to life for me.
Lucy Fleming is listed as a dance instructor in Athens in 1918. When World War 1 ended in late 1918, she went to England and France in the relief efforts and spent nearly a year there. I found it fascinating that she went to help after the war!
Over the years these big houses fell out of favor, and there was no historic preservation movement in the US until the 1960s. That’s why so many old mansions were lost – they were big, old, expensive to maintain, and out of style. In Athens, several of the fraternities and sororities purchased these homes. The Fleming House was purchased by Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity, who occupied it from 1982-2016. It was then purchased by Delta Phi Epsilon, the first new sorority at UGA in over 30 years!
The grand Fleming House just started it’s latest chapter with the new sorority. Hope your enjoyed learning more about this house and the family that built it. And as always, thank you for reading the blog!