Inside The Oldest House in Decatur

Swanton House Front Decatur, GA – Founded in 1823, Decatur is just six miles east of downtown Atlanta.  I was excited to tour Swanton House, which is part of the DeKalb History Center – it’s practically in my back yard and I’d never been there.  Last Saturday, this 190 year old home was open for tours, and as I walked up I saw a guide in 1860s period costume.  This house was moved from it’s original location nearly 50 years ago – but it’s on land that was owned by the Swanton Family. 20150307_113801I was technically challenged on this tour, and my camera was misbehaving – sorry about that.  But this house has such a history, you’ll wanna go and see it yourself. So get this – this house was originally a log cabin!  It was built around 1825-ish.  Can’t say for sure because the courthouse burned in 1842 (and I think the next couple of courthouses burned too).  It started as a 2 room dogtrot cabin. There were a couple of owners ahead of Benjamin Swanton, who bought the house in 1852.  It was expanded, clapboard added and made into a Georgian style cottage. Going in you are in a good sized reception hall, with the front parlor on the right.  The painting over the fireplace is of Mr. Swanton.

20150307_123010 Bejnamin Swanton made his money in the Dahlonega Gold Rush – not as a miner, but by selling supplies to the miners.  He also had several different businesses in Decatur, including brick making, tannery, etc.

This needlepoint stool is original to the house.20150307_122926    Another item original to the house, this bookcase.  And yes, the top is larger than the bottom but that’s the way the Swantons always had it!


They call this a 1 1/2 story house and there are 2 bedrooms upstairs.  Get this – the Swanton family left and went to Maine during the Civil War, so they had Ms. Johnson stay there.  I was like “OK, so?”.  Well she had 10 children in here.  10!  And they actually captured a Union soldier in the house (then again, 10 kids is like an army, huh??).


Here’s an early Jenny Lind rope bed – and a period appropriate mattress.  Now y’all know I love history, but this mattress didn’t look so comfortable.  No Temperpedic mattress here!


There’s also what is called a child’s bed – I was glad to find this out, because at first glance I thought it was a huge doll bed, but it just seemed too big for that!


Outside of the house there are a couple of cabins that have been moved here, and I’ll have them in an upcoming post.  Here’s a look at the back of the house:

20150307_130650Now here’s something you don’t see all that often – an old hitching post!  This one dates to 1882.


So now you’ve seen some of the oldest house in Decatur!  Hope you enjoyed this quick look at the house, and promise I’ll have my camera behaving next time!  Thanks so much for reading the blog – I love getting to share these old homes with y’all!




Inside A Big Old, Rambling Victorian

The Cedars

Washington, GA – This 18 room house is known as “The Cedars” – it’s a Big Old Georgia Home for sure!  And the land here was originally an Indian homesite, and later owned by George Walton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

George Walton one of the Declaration of Independence Signers









The original house was started 1793, added onto in 1805, and then the big two story addition was added in 1885.  Style-wise, they call this High Victorian.  Check out the outside details before we go in.  They just kept adding and adding to this place!

Victorian woodwork


Porch detail

Here’s a picture from 1889, soon after the big front addition was completed (courtesy Ga Archives).  I wasn’t sure why an 11 room addition was necessary, but get this – the owner at that time had 10 children.  That’s why you build a big old rambling Victorian house!  Guess they needed the room, huh?



I always like knowing what the houses I see looked like in the old days, and here’s a picture of one of the parlors in 1925 (Ga Archives, Vanishing Georgia Collection).  The house has 2 kitchens and 2 parlors – and they stretch to a total of 90 feet.



Looking around in the house, it’s got so many rooms, and it’s asymmetrical, so it’s hard to get a picture that conveys the sheer size of this place.  But you can tell this large family must have enjoyed this house, and just think if walls could talk! I liked the lived in feel in here.





double parlor




Thanks for going on this quick trip through this Big Old Georgia Home!  Appreciate you reading this!

Tara from Gone With The Wind Tour and Lovejoy Plantation

Lovejoy, GA – I read about the movie set of Tara being stored away in a barn, and naturally I just had to go see it.  It’s history!  Scarlett O’Hara lived here in Gone With The Wind and being a good southerner, I jumped at the chance to take a tour of it.  As a bonus, it’s located at Lovejoy Plantation…which is gated and I’d never get near it otherwise.

Lovejoy Plantation

Excited to set off on a 9AM Saturday morning tour, I followed the directions.  I felt a little funny as I pulled into the parking lot here around 8:45 in the morning.

Turn Here to Visit Tara!I may have been trying to slump down in my seat sitting outside a liquor store early on Saturday…but it was a quick walk and time to see Lovejoy Plantation – and Tara!

Friends at Lovejoy Plantation

Going to see the movie set, which is stored in a barn – I had to get past security.  These two were so friendly and I got distracted wanting to stop and pet the animals!

When you go in the barn, a dedicated group of volunteers has catalogued and preserved the remaining parts of Tara.  Just for some perspective, here are some photos from the late 1950s before it was packed up and moved to Georgia…

Tara Movie Set prior to being stored tara_mansion_1959_bison_01

Tara was stored away in North Ga in a couple of locations for around 20 years, before Betty Talmadge purchased it in 1979.  After that she had it moved and stored here at Lovejoy Plantation.

At first I was sure what all I was looking at, so many parts and pieces…but you start to connect the dots during the tour.  For example, these tall shutters were from the front of the house, and are in this scene with Scarlett and the Tarleton Twins.

Front Window of Tara Tara Front Windows in Movie


Several windows, as well as porch steps are preserved and laid out in the barn.

Tara Windows Tara Movie Set Door


So remember how I said this is inside Lovejoy Plantation?  So here’s another look as we got closer to the house.

Lovejoy Plantation

It was a “plantation plain” style house that kept getting added too, with a huge addition in 1858 (as in it may have been two houses joined together at that point).  What’s interesting here – there was a big cavalry battle here in 1864.  It’s said that the owners stored grain inside the columns of the house to hide it from the Yankees.  The house has bullet holes inside and out – that’s how fierce the fighting was.  But let’s get back to Gone With The Wind (GWTW)- I learned a couple of interesting facts.

Did you know that superfans of GWTW are called “Windies”?  I first heard it as “Wendy’s” and that made me crave a Frosty.  In fact, I want one NOW.  But no, Windies are the extreme fans.  They know every detail about the movie!  When I stop to think about what I know of the movie after seeing it 10,000 times growing up, I always think of the Carol Burnett Show skit of the dress Scarlett had made from curtains!

Carol Burnett Show Vivian Leigh and Carol Burnett

You can actually see this dress, along with a scale replica of Tara at the Road To Tara Museum, in nearby Jonesboro.  It’s a neat museum in the old train depot, and certainly worth a stop.  Here are a couple of pics from my visit there:

Road to Tara Museum in Jonesboro


See those big steps off the porch?  Here they are now:


All in all, an interesting tour to see the real Tara from Gone With The Wind!  Hope you enjoyed taking this side trip from Atlanta with me!  Thanks so much for reading the blog, I appreciate you!





Abandoned Big Old House Tour

Morgan County, Georgia – Let’s go check out Nolan House, which is a big old abandoned house, vacant for about 35 years now.

Built in 1905 by James Alonzo Nolan, this was the center of a 2000 acre cotton farming operation.  Not only does the house remain, there is a crossroads that has the original store/commissary for the sharecroppers (oh wait, we say tenants now, that sounds nicer), mule barn, and sharecropper  tenant cabins.  IMG_3193

I was surprised by what good shape the interior was in, all things considered.  In the downstairs hallway, you can’t help but notice the stairs were painted sunshine yellow at one point.

Hall Stairway

Of course with the house being empty so long, some of the details aren’t there as you peer into rooms…

Interior Room Nolan House


I would love to know what was in the niches on the sides of the doorway.



And of course years of neglect made things a little rough on an addition to the house.



Of course I had to see how things looked from the upstairs balcony…

Upstairs balcony


I know it needs LOTS of work…

Porch Ceiling




This is one I look at and think “it can be saved and brought back to its former glory”.  Beautiful land around the house.


View from back of house


There are several of the crossroads buildings still standing, including the commissary and mule barn.


This one is leaning just a bit…

Leaning.....Mule Barn

Thanks for looking at this beautiful old home! Amazing to see an abandoned big old house like this. Hope you enjoyed this post!




Glen Mary Plantation

Glen Mary Front View

Hancock County, GA – Glen Mary Plantation has  “WOW” factor when you see it.  It’s currently a restoration project, and as soon as I pulled into the driveway I fell in love with this place!  What does Glen Mary stand for?  It’s “Mary’s Valley” in Scottish…named for the owner’s wife, Mary.

This is a 53 foot square house, 4 rooms up (2 parlors, 2 bedrooms) and 4 rooms down (Dining Room and bedrooms).

Wait – why isn’t the whole house painted white?  Weren’t they all?  Nope.  The raised basement was painted white for a long time, and as they restored this place, under probably 900 layers of paint they found this darker color was the original.


Built in 1848, this Greek Revival mansion was only owned by two families in a 130 year period – found some old pics of the house, amazing how far it has come along.  Currently under restoration, hope you’ll enjoy learning about this place.

It was originally built by Theophilus Jackson Smith, and named in honor of his wife, Mary Gonder Smith.  TJ Smith makes me feel so lazy – he was a banker, planter, land trader, state senator, state representative, and a judge.   He was quite the successful planter, growing it from 1,500 acres in 1850, to around 2,500 acres by 1860.  Things were rough after the Civil War, and he had to sell Glen Mary.  Old photos of the original owners below (from UGA’s site)

photo-spoils-tjsmithMary Salome Gonder Smith

After the Civil War, the house along with 850 acres was sold for $10,500 to General Ethan Allen Hitchcock.


General Hitchcock had quite a distinguished career – and in fact was one of two who guarded Lincoln’s body right after his assassination in 1865, and was also the head of the honor guard.  He was struck by a horse after the war, and while he never fully recovered, he married his nurse.

Wait a minute. Ethan Allen?  The furniture store?  Nope, Hitchcock was the grandson of the Revolutionary War patriot, Ethan Allen.  He was born in Vermont, which means he had a strange accent to the local Georgians!  Interestingly, he was quite ill when he bought the house, and put the house solely in his wife’s name so her family could live there after his death.  He died 3 years after moving in.  He was buried at Glen Mary, but was moved to West Point.

His widow and descendants lived in what was described on one site as “genteel poverty” – whatever money they had went to the upkeep of Glen Mary.  By the 1930s it was looking a little tired and had an addition to the back.


By the early 1970s, the house was in the process of restoration.  Here’s an exterior as well as one of the parlors:

Glen Mary 1974 NRHP

Parlor, 1974 NRHP

Check out your first impression in the house…

GM Website



Here’s the thing – this is an active restoration project.  Owned by Preservation America, they are restoring this house slowly as the funds allow.  These photos give you an idea of the huge scope of work (from UGA/GM site).



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Seeing peeling paint and a leaking roof was sad, but finally they were able to replace the roof on this place!  Restoring and maintaining an old home – you’re NEVER done with it!