South­ern Com­fort

THE old­est CON­TIN­U­OUSLY OC­CU­PIED HOUSE in Ma­ri­etta, Ge­or­gia, HAS Nearly two Cen­turies of His­tory AND even More CHARM.

Victorian Homes - - Contents - BY RE­BEKAH WAHLBERG

The old­est con­tin­u­ously oc­cu­pied house in Ma­ri­etta, Ge­or­gia, has al­most two cen­turies of his­tory and even more charm.

The home was built in 1838 and has been owned by four fam­i­lies, though two of th­ese fam­i­lies have cared for it for the bet­ter part of 150 years. Oak­ton’s cur­rent res­i­dents, Will and Michelle Good­man, are the third gen­er­a­tion of Good­mans to live in the home.

A clas­sic of South­ern es­tates, Oak­ton in Ma­ri­etta, Ge­or­gia, is one of the few homes in the At­lanta area to en­dure the test of time.


Not much is known about the first own­ers of Oak­ton: It was built by Dave Ir­win, a North­west Blue Ridge cir­cuit judge, who spent much of his time trav­el­ing for work. The home passed hands briefly to Charles Allen, who owned the prop­erty for a few years be­fore John R. Wilder bought it in 1852. The Wilders were a well-to-do Sa­van­nah fam­ily who bought Oak­ton as their moun­tain va­ca­tion home, Ma­ri­etta be­ing a pop­u­lar re­sort spot in the 19th cen­tury. How­ever, they didn’t have much chance to visit be­fore the Civil War be­gan, so Oak­ton re­mained empty, though well main­tained, for sev­eral years.

Af­ter the war ended, the Wilders re­mod­eled Oak­ton, hired Scot­tish gar­dener Wil­liam An­nan­dale, and built his fam­ily a home across the road from the es­tate. The two fam­i­lies lived across the road from each other for many years: Four gen­er­a­tions of An­nan­dales took care of three gen­er­a­tions of Wilders. The fam­i­lies re­mained in close prox­im­ity un­til John Ran­dolph An­der­son, who was mar­ried to a Wilder, sold Oak­ton to Will Good­man’s grand­par­ents in 1938. Af­ter World War II, Will’s grand­fa­ther built up the sub­di­vi­sion around Oak­ton, lay­ing out plans for roads dur­ing Ma­ri­etta’s post-war pop­u­la­tion boom.

Will’s par­ents took over the care of Oak­ton in 1977, and Will and Michelle have lived there since 2002. Michelle’s busi­ness, Oak­ton House and Gar­dens, of­fers tours of the prop­erty, event plan­ning and host­ing, flo­ral de­sign and other various home­made prod­ucts. Events at Oak­ton have in­cluded sev­eral wed­dings, in­clud­ing Will and Michelle’s on a sunny Valen­tine’s Day in 1987, as well as their son’s wed­ding.


Oak­ton didn’t re­main com­pletely empty dur­ing the Civil War. Dur­ing the Bat­tle of Ken­ne­saw Moun­tain in 1864, Con­fed­er­ate Ma­jor Gen­eral Wil­liam Lor­ing oc­cu­pied the prop­erty and used it as his base of op­er­a­tions. The Con­fed­er­ate Army suc­cess­fully re­pelled the Union Ma­jor Gen­eral Wil­liam T. Sher­man’s forces at Ken­ne­saw, and as a re­sult, Oak­ton was one of the few homes to come un­scathed out of Sher­man’s ran­sack­ing of North­west Ge­or­gia.

It’s also ru­mored that Gen­eral Sher­man him­self oc­cu­pied Oak­ton at some point dur­ing the war. He refers to the home in his jour­nals, and other ac­counts re­fer to Sher­man as a “fire­ball com­ing into town.”


While Oak­ton was orig­i­nally built in the Greek Re­vival style pop­u­lar in the 19th cen­tury South, two cen­turies of fam­i­lies and growth have re­sulted in additions, re­mod­els and meta­mor­pho­sis. The ex­te­rior now closely re­sem­bles a Vic­to­rian home with grace­ful Ital­ianate fea­tures, while newer wings ex­pand the bottom floor and add three bed­rooms up­stairs where there was orig­i­nally one.

Oak­ton’s kitchen was sep­a­rate from the main house, a pop­u­lar trend in the 18th and 19th cen­turies. Of­ten called sum­mer kitchens, th­ese small, one-room out­build­ings were near enough to the house to trans­port hot food, but sep­a­rate enough to keep the heat and smell of cook­ing and other la­bor­in­ten­sive chores away from the liv­ing ar­eas. This de­gree of sep­a­ra­tion also en­sured safety—kitchen fires weren’t out of the

ques­tion, so keep­ing the room iso­lated from the main house was a pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sure to keep a fire from spread­ing. As kitchen tech­nol­ogy ad­vanced and cook­ing be­came eas­ier, faster and safer, kitchens made their way into the main houses.

Such was the case for Oak­ton’s kitchen. First a breeze­way be­tween the two build­ings was built, then it be­came a hall, and even­tu­ally the kitchen be­came part of the house. Now, it’s the hub of the Good­man’s fam­ily life. While they en­ter­tain in the more for­mal front rooms, the kitchen is ca­sual and com­fort­able, with all the mod­ern trap­pings of 21st-cen­tury life. Thick wooden ceil­ing beams open up the space and charm­ing farm­house kitchen­ware hear­kens back to the home’s roots even in the midst of mod­ern ameni­ties.


While the prop­erty sur­round­ing Oak­ton has swelled to 325 acres, the core gar­dens and land­scap­ing have kept steady at 5 acres through­out the es­tate’s his­tory. Af­ter the home passed into the Good­mans’ hands and the An­nan­dales were no longer in charge of the grounds, the gar­dens grew out of their for­mal bound­aries.

Will, a land­scape ar­chi­tect by trade and train­ing, did his col­lege the­sis on restor­ing the gar­dens to their orig­i­nal lay­outs from the pe­riod when the Wilders lived in Oak­ton. He stud­ied ev­ery bit of the home’s his­tory he could find—both oral and writ­ten—from let­ters and old gar­den plans to sto­ries his grand­fa­ther told him.

Wil­liam An­nan­dale, the Wilder’s farm man­ager, ded­i­cated his life to car­ing for Oak­ton’s gar­dens. So when Will Good­man started his re­search, he looked to An­nan­dale’s work: how he cared for the land, how he or­ga­nized it and how he di­rected wa­ter to ensure the soil drained prop­erly. Will even­tu­ally de­cided on an adap­tive re­use preser­va­tion of the gar­dens rather than a re­con­struc­tion. He gath­ered all the in­for­ma­tion he could about the orig­i­nal gar­dens, drew up a plan in­cor­po­rat­ing a swim­ming pool, and then con­verted the orig­i­nal six parterre kitchen gar­dens into a more mod­ern, ef­fi­cient gar­den that would be eas­ier to main­tain.

Over­look­ing it all is Oak­ton’s front porch. A col­lec­tion of clas­sic Brumby rock­ers adorns the veranda, en­cour­ag­ing friends and fam­ily to par­take in the re­lax­ation as iconic as the Brum­bys them­selves.

“It’s your per­fect South­ern front porch,” Will says. “That’s the place you live, sit­ting on the porch on any spring, sum­mer or fall evening.”

Oak­ton was one of the few homes to come un­scathed out of Gen­eral Wil­liam T. Sher­man’s ran­sack­ing of North­west Ge­or­gia.

Top. One of the two main rooms di­rectly off the front en­trance, the liv­ing room stands across the foyer from the main dining room. When the Good­mans en­ter­tain, they set up a bar in the liv­ing room to serve guests.

Right. A clas­sic South­ern veranda looks out on Oak­ton’s front acreage. While the grounds around Oak­ton have swelled to 325 acres in the past, its cur­rent 5 acres have been part of the land­scaped gar­dens for gen­er­a­tions.

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