Beds: 6Baths: 2sqft: 2500
A Historical Timeline.
Researched and written by Professor Sara Harwood.
Oakton is the oldest continuously occupied house in Marietta!
Irwin Family (1838-1850)
Oakton was built for David Irwin (1807-1885), a lawyer from Madison, Georgia, in 1838. The house was designed in Greek Revival style, with four symmetrical rooms, two on each side of a straight staircase that led to one room upstairs. The ground floor rooms had large triple-sash windows that led onto a piazza. The house may have been named for the massive oak trees on the property, still standing today and now more than two hundred years old.
David and his wife, Sarah Royston (1810-1884), had eight children, and the house and grounds were tended to by nineteen enslaved persons. In about 1850, David sold the house to George Allen (1818-1873), a farmer who moved to Bluffton, South Carolina, shortly afterwards to build a Methodist Church.
Wilder Family (1852-1939)
The longest owners of the house, the Wilders kept Oakton as a summer residence. John Randolph Wilder (1816-1879), a cotton merchant, and his wife, Anna Drucilla Lewis (1818-1877), were the first Wilders to live in the house. They chose to stay in their native Savannah during the winter and reside at Oakton during summer months. Marietta was a popular resort town in the nineteenth century, and Savannah’s summers were renowned for their humidity and mosquitos. Furthermore, since Wilder owned businesses at the railroad stations along the route to Marietta, Oakton was well-situated for him, as he could visit his businesses as he traveled up to the “mountains” of Marietta for the summer.
During the Civil War, Oakton was used as a headquarters by Major General Loring and the Confederate army during the 1864 battle of Kennesaw Mountain. It is believed that after the Confederate army retreated towards Atlanta, General Sherman traveled through Marietta and visited Oakton.
After the Civil War, Anna Wilder lived in Oakton year-round. In the 1870s, she renovated the house substantially, giving it the Italianate style it still has today. She added two wings, one on either side of the original house, each with two new rooms on the ground floor and a bedroom above on the second floor. In the 1838 section of the house, she widened one of the front rooms and had the bottom steps of the staircase arranged into a curve, making the hallway smaller while adding to the living space. She also built a front foyer with canvas flooring and gilded trim. Perhaps most strikingly, she added the unique exterior columns to give the house its distinctive appearance. The columns and trim are painted green now, but paint sampling a few years ago revealed that Mrs. Wilder had them painted grey.
Joseph John Wilder (1844-1900) inherited his father’s business in Savannah and eventually began using Oakton as a summer residence as well. In 1870, Joseph married Georgia Page King Smith (1833-1914), who is mentioned frequently by her mother, Anna Matilda Page King (1798-1859), in the letters since published as Anna: The Letters of a St. Simons Island Plantation Mistress, 1817-1859. Joseph and Georgia Wilder had one child, Anna Page (1873-1956), who married Jefferson Randolph Anderson (1861-1950), a Savannah lawyer who represented Chatham County in the state legislature. The Andersons also used Oakton as a summer residence, opting to live in Savannah during the cooler months. They installed plumbing and bathrooms in the 1930s, shortly before they sold the house to the Goodman family.
Goodman Family (1939-Present)
Robert M. Goodman (1901-1977), an engineer who worked for the Southern Bell Company, purchased the house from the Andersons and lived there with his wife, Dorothy Victoria Stephens (1901-1988), and their three children. The Goodmans had long roots in Marietta, as Robert’s grandfather, also named Robert M. Goodman, had founded the Marietta Daily Journal in 1866 and published a book called The Philosophy of Life. Although they believed in preservation, the Goodmans also wanted Oakton to have modern comforts, so they installed central heat. During the Second World War, Robert was approached by engineers in D.C. to help with the national cause, and he ultimately served under General Patton in Africa, attaining the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Robert M. Goodman, Jr., (1924-2006) and his wife, Barbara Babcock Walker (1925-1994), acquired the property in 1977 and raised five daughters and two sons. One of those sons, Will, is the current owner.
Will Goodman, a landscape architect, and his wife Michelle, a florist, have lovingly cared for Oakton and its grounds since 2002. They converted the dirt path between the house and the original 1838 kitchen into a full hallway, connecting the two historic buildings. They have used the house to host workshops, classes, and luncheons.
Despite being the longest continuously lived-in house in Marietta, Oakton maintains many original elements, including the back door. The second-floor center window at the front of the house remains unchanged from 1838, and elsewhere throughout the house original, wavy window panes can be seen. The well beside the kitchen is believed to date back to 1838. Although the modern kitchen has been greatly expanded by Will and Michelle Goodman, the outline of its original size is still evident in the floorboards. Oakton’s kitchen was used as a model for the restoration of the original kitchen at the Root House in Marietta Square. There are even scraps of the 1840s wallpaper still attached to the walls in the back parlor.
The house has yielded many surprises over the years. Current owner Will Goodman was stunned to find a Confederate saber in the original downstairs closet. His father and grandfather were arms collectors yet never mentioned it, so Will thinks they didn’t know that it was there. Perhaps even more amazingly, a few years ago, National Geographic’s archeology show, Diggers, filmed at Oakton for two days and found an 1820s pistol in the barnyard!
Oakton was built at the foot of Kennesaw Mountain, directly on a Cherokee trail. The large, two-hundred-year-old oaks are believed to have been used by Cherokee travelers as marker trees. One of them, by Noses Creek, has a carving, which might have been meant to indicate the safest place to ford the creek.
In 1868, the Wilders traveled to England, where they met an exceptionally talented gardener, William Annandale. At the Wilders’ invitation, Annandale and his family came to Georgia and moved into a little yellow house known as “Acorn,” across the street from Oakton. Annandale gave the grounds the beautiful appearance that they have today.
He laid out the broad boxwood gardens at the rear of the house. Annandale is also likely responsible for the milk house and smoke house that stand immediately behind the house, beside the kitchen. These two intriguing buildings are made of brick; Robert Goodman, Sr., gave them their current stucco siding to match Oakton.
On the front lawn, Annandale designed a half-moon rose garden and planted tulip poplars on either side of it. The Wilders sourced iron urns from Italy to anchor the garden. The two urns in the garden remain, but a third, which originally sat on the other side of the drive, has been moved into the formal Italian garden at the rear of the house. For years, Will Goodman would place evergreen trees in the two front urns at Christmas and then plant them on the grounds in January. He continued the practice until he started running out of space! One of the evergreens stands proudly over the front drive.
In 1890, Annandale had the massive heart pine barn built. The barn housed six horse stalls, a space for carriages, two tack rooms, and a hay loft. Annandale and two other men signed the door leading to the loft. In the 1980s, Will Goodman converted the loft into a spacious office. Originally, a narrow ladder reached from the ground floor into the loft, but Goodman replaced it with a full staircase and hung the ladder in the office as a decoration. The handrails he installed for the staircase had once been window bars on the Marietta tannery. The marble step leading into the barn had once served as the stair into the privy, which stood by the boxwood gardens. A few feet at a time, when he was a child, Goodman rolled the marble step over to the barn. He had observed that his grandfather struggled to make the step up to the barn and thought the marble step would be a big help. The little boy managed to roll the step over to the barn during the course of several months without his grandfather noticing. Once he had the marble in place by the barn and told his grandfather what he had done, the family agreed with him that it would serve well in its new spot.
The Goodmans focused primarily on preservation and adaptive reuse of the grounds. Robert Goodman, Sr., planted a sugar maple near the front drive and an allée of cedars leading to the St. Mary’s Lane entrance. He also converted the half-moon rose garden in to a passive garden, putting in a lawn and adding the statue of the Madonna and child. Robert Goodman, Jr., and his wife hung their wedding rings on the statue for many years, until Will melted the rings down to make his own wedding ring.
Beginning in the 1980s, when his mother was officially his “client” for his then-new business as a landscape architect, Will Goodman restored Annandale’s boxwood gardens, adding new trees, trimming the boxwood to keep it healthy, and replacing dying trees. He restored the pea gravel path, which is flanked by daffodils, planted in the 1870s, and which originally led through an allée and past a pecan orchard. When one of the pair of yew trees planted at the front of the house died, Goodman moved the surviving yew tree to the back, near the boxwood garden. He also converted one boxwood garden into a pool and another into a formal Italian garden. Beyond the boxwood gardens, Goodman added a basketball court, complete with lighting, for his son. By the front drive of the house, Goodman built an outdoor fireplace, with an arrowhead design decorating the mantel as an homage to the Cherokee who originally used this ground.
Updated on April 8, 2019 at 4:57 pm
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Oakton c. 1838 - 581 Kennesaw Ave NW, Marietta, GA 30060, USA
Oakton c. 1838 - 581 Kennesaw Ave NW, Marietta, GA 30060, USA