THE oldest CONTINUOUSLY OCCUPIED HOUSE in Marietta, Georgia, HAS Nearly two Centuries of History AND even More CHARM.
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.
A FAMILY ESTATE
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.”
GREEK REVIVAL TURNED ITALIANATE
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.
HOW DOES YOUR GARDEN GROW?
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.