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  • Writer's pictureHistoric Columbus

Country Houses

SOURCE: Historic Preservation in Columbus, Georgia. An Official Publication of the Columbus Area Bicentennial Committee. April 1976. The booklet was prepared for the Committee through the cooperative efforts of the Lower Chattahoochee Area Planning and Development Commission, the Columbus Museum of Arts and Crafts, and the Historic Columbus Foundation.

 

Above: Westmoreland, 7400 Warm Springs Road, was built between 1825 and 1837 and was originally “West’s Tavern” on the Old Stagecoach Road, ten miles outside of Columbus. It was a tavern to accommodate travelers from Savannah to Columbus.


At the time of their construction, the antebellum country houses were indeed out of town. The steady, north-eastward growth of the city has brought all of these formerly rural mansions into the city limits. Only Westmoreland (above), located in an area known as Midland, is still surrounded by farmlands.



Above: The John Woolfolk House, 1615 12th Street, built c. 1840 for John Woolfolk.

Below: (Left) Gordonido, 1420 Wynnton Road, built in 1837 for John R. Dawson. House was originally known as "Dawson's Place." It unfortunately was devastated by a fire in September of last year. Its future is precarious and unknown at this time.

(Right) The Wynn House, 1240 Wynnton Road, built in 1840 for Col. William L. Wynn. Moved 300 feet in 1906 by J.T. Cooper.



Despite their appearance of having once been the center of great plantations, few of these houses ever functioned in that capacity. They were the houses of planters whose cotton-producing lands were located many miles away. Except for the rich river bottoms, the land near Columbus was too sandy for the cultivation of cotton. Ideal cotton-producing lands existed in the counties to the north and across the Chattahoochee River in East Alabama. It was from these areas that cotton was supplied to the local textile mills for conversion into saleable goods, such as osnaburg, and later into towels, ticking, spinning yards, and fabric.


The country houses, a number of which are located in Wynnton, fit no rigid architectural pattern. Three houses, the John Woolfolk Place, Gordonido, and The Wynn House are of the classical Greek Revival style with Doric columns. Another, known as Five Oaks, is now demolished and the site of the city's tallest building, had a graceful cast-iron piazza more at home on Louisiana or Mississippi River plantations. Ironically, a noted English architectural historian, Sir Alex Clifton-Taylor, while on a visit to Columbus, termed this clapboard mansion "the house to be preserved at all costs." Others, existing at the time, which seemed to be in greater danger, due to neglect, fire, or demolition, are still standing through the combined efforts sentiment, adaptive use, and most probably, just plain luck.


Above: Five Oaks, built in 1845 by James N. Bethune. In 1863, Col. William G. Woolfolk purchased the house and its surrounding property. Five Oaks remained in the Woolfolk family for more than a hundred years until it was sold to AFLAC in 1964.



Above: The Elms (Wynnwood), 1846 Buena Vista Road, built in 1834 for Lambert Spencer, octagonal wings added in 1868 by Lloyd G. Bowers.

Below: (Left) Hilton, 2025 Wynnton Road, was constructed in 1838 by Dr. Lovick Pierce. The house caught on fire in 1983.

(Right) Dinglewood, built in 1859 for Joel Early Hurt. Barringer and Morton, architects.



Bearing testimony to Columbus' antebellum architectural eclecticism are houses such as The Elms, presently known as Wynnwood. The center portion of this one-story house is actually a chaste Greek Revival house, while later additions, matching Italianate octagonal wings, camouflage its Greek Revival beginnings, and distinguish the house as different from any other. Hilton and Dinglewood are both executed in the Italian Villa style, yet the only similarities are found in the existence of ornamental details such as trim and brackets. The Cedars and St. Elmo, though both have stuccoed facades and masonry columns, are also quite dissimilar.


These comparisons are important only in that they illustrate the exciting variety of stylistic interpretations which are peculiar to Columbus. The outbuildings connected with the antebellum country houses in Columbus were the necessary, the barn, the stables, the carriage house, the drying house, the assortment of poultry houses, the greenhouse, the kitchen, and the cook’s house. There is no (standing) evidence of these homes having a row of cabins for servants, either enslaved or free.



(Left) The Cedars, 2039 13th Street, built in 1837 for Col. John Banks.

(Right) St. Elmo, 2808 18th Street, built in 1833 for Col. Seaborn Jones. Until 1875, the house was known as "El Dorado."

Below: The Redd House, completed in 1859, for Albert Gresham Redd. Barringer and Morton, architects.



The archenemy of wooden structures is fire, and for that reason, most houses of the 19th Century had detached brick kitchens to lessen the danger. Despite this precaution, many succumbed to flames in both rural and urban sections of the South. With minor exceptions, this has not been the case in Columbus. Most of the houses lost in Columbus have been intentionally demolished.


One of the most illustrative examples of Gothic Revival architecture in the South was the Albert Gresham Redd House on Rose Hill in Columbus. The mansion was leveled to make way for a church parking lot. In the same area, the Hughes House was destroyed, its site is now a parking lot for a construction company.


While the losses have been great, the city's legacy of outstanding residential architecture is a substantial one. The future of this legacy depends a great deal on a better informed and interested citizenry to help find ways of saving these fine old buildings from future destruction.



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