After listening to the presentation from Clent Coker (pictured left with Carolyn Mitchell, Program Chairman) on the history of North Georgia's Barnsley Gardens, it became obvious that we knew very little about the history of the property. Four generations of his family lived near the Gardens granting him the opportunity to accumulate many artifacts and stories of the ups and downs of Barnsley. It was out of love that Godfrey Barnsley bought some land and built the house for his beloved wife Julia to take advantage of the fresh air in the Georgia Mountains as she suffered from poor health. Mr. Barnsley was originally from Darbyshire, England and was a respected entrepreneur although he never actually became an American citizen. He did very well in business and was able to acquire 8,000 acres of land that became the house and gardens.
After Barnsley died, the property went into disrepair and foreclosure. The property was eventually auctioned off, and in 1960 was closed up and became nothing but a jungle. In 1988 the property was put on the market, and wealthy Prince Fugger of Germany expressed an interest in the property. He bought the land and cleaned it up. In the 90's a museum and other historic buildings were opened. A resort has been built with a focus on corporate functions with well-appointed guest rooms, conference/event space, walking trails and an 18-hole golf course. The gardens have been recreated as close as possible to the original vision of Godfrey Barnsley with some original trees that he imported from around the world. The house is just a shell of its original self but still inspires the visitor to recall the original dream Mr. Barnsley had of a tranquil escape in the beautiful North Georgia Mountains.
Mr. Coker has written a book on the property, and he made it available to purchase at the meeting.
Thank you to Elizabeth Munson for providing us with her usual tasty sweets!