Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Southern Comfort

South for the winter. Great Room mural, center panel. Pebble Hill Plantation, Thomasville, Georgia. J. Clinton Shepherd, artist.
by Augustus Mayhew

For more than a century, the rustic Tallahassee-Monticello-Thomasville terrain, known as the “Quail Capital of the World,” has been the cultural vortex for the customs and constructs of antebellum plantation life that once defined the Old South's allure, with many of its traditions still evident today as illustrated by available historical images, the area’s house museums and private landholdings.
Forshala, the Red Hills Florida plantation of Harry Payne Whitney. The property was later owned by Robert Livingston Ireland, Jr., whose family owned Pebble Hill and was a descendant of New York's Livingston family, who owned Dixie Plantation.
Udo M. Fleischmann, a New York banker and sportsman, seen at a Red Hills field trial, amassed a vast plantation near Tallahassee, where his sister and her husband, the Alfred B. Maclays, had a plantation, Killearn, today known as Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park. Mrs. Henry Ludlow Beadle at Tall Timbers Plantation.
A chauffeur-driven mule wagon, a civilized approach to hunting in the pinewoods.
By the time Gilded Age Northerners, Park Avenue swells and Standard Oil titans among them, bought nearly 100 cotton plantations and converted them into game preserves, more than 300,000 acres of Red Hills pineland had been secured exclusively as quail habitats for the three-month winter hunting season. Silk-stocking tycoons became double-barreled sportsmen, as South Georgia and North Florida became the Long Island kennel clique's preferred setting for fashionable bird-shoot parties and elegant field lunches.
Proper attire for the hunt. Shotgun at the ready.
A white-jacket field lunch between morning and afternoon quail expeditions.
Lunch followed by a bit of relaxation; for these gentlemen, it appears to include a jug of moonshine.
Bird dogs, man's best friend.
Mule push wagons were popular comforts among sharpshooters.
And yes, there are the Palm Beach connections. Pebble Hill’s principal architect, Abram Garfield, designed Casa Apava on South Ocean Boulevard for Chester Bolton; the Great Room’s murals were created by J. Clinton Shepherd, a longtime Palm Beach artist who served as the first director of the Norton School of Art. The images of the Seminole Indian mural at Honey Lake are believed to be the first published photographs of Shepherd’s work created more than a half-century ago. Lyndhurst’s owners, Dr. and Mrs. William Bippus, were Palm Beach residents, Everglades Club and B&T Club members as well, who lived in the North End before moving to their antebellum plantation near Monticello.

Here is a glimpse of plantation life’s past, portrayed by photographs from the Florida Photographic Collection at the State of Florida Archives, and its existence today, as depicted by my visits to Goodwood and Pebble Hill plantations, now house museums and gardens, and Honey Lake and Lyndhurst, two privately-owned plantations. Many remain off limits, such as Greentree Plantation, the former John Hay Whitney property deeded to the Nature Conservancy. Each place has its own architectural and historical perspective.
A plantation repast, c. 1910.

Goodwood Plantation, Tallahassee
Towering oaks and moss make for an ever-changing web of shadows, the perfect ground cover for Southern Gothic fiction, a playful Tennessee Williams family reunion or a house museum postcard.
Although Goodwood Plantation’s main house was originally built during the mid-19th century, its existing façade and improvements were the work of Mrs. Alexander Tiers, an avid quail hunter who bought the property in 1911 and proceeded to modernize it. For the next twenty-five years, Mrs. Tiers left Farmlands, her New Jersey estate, and opened Goodwood for the winter, as she was kin to the Udo Fleischmann family, whose plantation was adjacent to Goodwood. Refurbishing but keeping the formal center-hall interior floor plan, she added electricity, indoor plumbing, installed the area’s first swimming pool and built several cottages, making for much of what visitors experience today. After several owners, with most of the property’s extensive landholdings supplanted by subdivisions, in 1990 the Goodwood Museum and Gardens was organized to assume stewardship for the property, thus its transformation into a house museum.
The main house's center hall interior is antebellum; its 20th-century facade was added in c. 1912.
The original staircase at Goodwood.
Goodwood was once owned by Senator William Hodges and his wife, Margaret. After her husband's death in 1940, Mrs. Hodges stayed at Goodwood, eventually marrying one of her tenants, Thomas M. Hood, who lived in one of the plantation's guest cottages.
Below the original 1840s ceiling, the south parlor features a settee designed to promote a Victorian posture. The parlor set for a séance or a late morning sunbath.
Never too many candlesticks. Dinner for eight.
A flock of co-eds from the Florida State College for Women pose beneath the pool pergola, c. 1925. The same view in October 2009, an idyllic spot for meditative reflection.
A splash party, c. 1925.
The pool's original c. 1910 pergola remains intact.
From the pool, a brick walk leads to the enclosed side porch on the east side of the main house.
One of the many outbuildings, known as Rough House, it was converted into a cafe, Paula's Cabana Cafe, located between the pool and the former tennis court turned outdoor roller rink.
The intimate main dining area at the Cabana Cafe. Four years ago, Paula Kendrick created Paula's Cabana Cafe at Goodwood. Seen here, prepping for the lunch rush. Simply sensational!
Each dining room features a taste for local art, currently featuring the work of John Rooks.
Gazing balls were a magical decorative addition to country house gardens.

Pebble Hill Plantation, Thomasville
Pebble Hill's architect, Abram Garfield, married the owner's secretary. Becoming a familiar figure at the plantation, Garfield designed several of the outbuildings as well as the main house.
In the 1950s, Elizabeth “Pansy” Ireland Poe established the Pebble Hill Foundation so that after her death the 3,000-acre plantation her grandfather, Howard Melville Hanna, first bought in 1896, would be maintained as a museum. First opened to the public in 1983, the house was furnished with a century of Hanna family furnishings and collections.

Standing in the loggia hall, Parker Poe admiring his wife, Pansy Poe's collection of carved cattle tusks kept at Pebble Hill.
While Pansy, Mrs. Parker Poe, was an accomplished horsewoman and polo player, she converted her mother's cow barn into stables, it was her mother, Kate Hanna Ireland, who built much of Pebble Hill’s existing complex of buildings.

Kate, and her husband, Robert Livingston Ireland, lived at 740 Park, their lives chronicled in Michael Gross’ bestseller, 740 Park Avenue, and worked with Abram Garfield, a Cleveland architect and son of President James Garfield, to design new additions, especially after the 1934 fire that destroyed the 1850 antebellum part of the Main House.

The loggia wing, previously added in 1914, was saved from the fire and was included in the plans for the new house. Constructed in 18 month, the new house was finished a few months before Kate Ireland died tragically in 1936. Pansy’s brother, Robert Livingston Ireland, Jr. was also an avid sportsman, who co-owned two nearby quail hunting sanctuaries, Ring Oak Plantation and Forshala Plantation, the one-time Harry Payne Whitney property.

After seeing artist J. Clinton Shepherd’s Everglades mural at the US Sugar Company-owned Clewiston Inn, Pansy Poe commissioned the Palm Beach artist to cover the walls of the Great Room and the Indian Room with murals representing the wildlife and the Native American life found in the surrounding habitats.
A view from the garden of the west elevation's Palladian window. The loggia hall connecting the central pavilion with the Indian Room and the Great Room, rebuilt after a 1930s fire destroyed much of the antebellum Main House.
The Indian Room, mural. J. Clinton Shepherd, artist.
Indian Room, painting. J. Clinton Shepherd, artist.
Left: The Great Room, fireplace. Mural, center panel. J. Clinton Shepherd, artist. Great Room, mural panel. Above: Great Room, mural panel.
Great Room, looking southeast.
Great Room, looking northeast.
Family photographs placed atop a sofa table in the Great Room.
Great Room, looking west.
In addition to the family's Pebble Hill Plantation located along the scenic Plantation Parkway linking Monticello and Tallahassee, the family owned Honey Lake Plantation, a 3,600-acre hunting preserve with a 70-acre lake and a small day house adjacent to the Gerald Livingston’s Dixie Plantation.

Honey Lake Plantation, Greenville
Honey Lake's day house, a small boathouse located just to the east of the Gerald Livingston's Dixie Plantation.
Set amidst stands of southern pines on the shore of Honey Lake, the boathouse-cottage was built by Pansy Ireland Poe, as a day house for hunters, located east of Monticello and about a 30-minute drive from Thomasville. Here, Mrs. Poe again commissioned J. Clinton Shepherd to design the decorative art work. Shepherd created an approx. 40-foot mural along the boathouse’s back wall. Nearly, sixty years later, the mural is one of Florida’s mid-century aesthetic treasures.
The life-sized mural was installed in a series of nine panels on the north wall of the boathouse's lower level where boats were stored.
Northwest corner panels. The northeast corner panel.
The friendly two-panel alligator was painted on the west wall of the boat storage area.
The center panel was in especially distressed condition.

Lyndhurst Plantation, Greenville, Florida
Family photographs on a parlor table at Lyndhurst.
Located south of Honey Lake Plantation, Lyndhurst Plantation is known as the only Jefferson County plantation with its original house that has been in continual use since its construction. It is one of the area’s only remaining authentic Greek Revival antebellum houses, constructed of hand-made bricks with a wood-frame upper floor. Completed in c. 1850 with a large central hall flanked by two rooms on each side, each room measures 25-by-25 feet with 18-foot ceilings.

Surrounded by a stable, corn crib, tobacco barn and other outbuildings, Lyndhurst was owned by the Bailey family and their descendants until 1965 when the 3,500-acre plantation was bought by Palm Beach residents, Dr. and Mrs. William Bippus. The late Mrs. Bippus was the former Myrtle Henry, of Monticello, a descendant of Florida's first elected governor, William Mosley. Having moved from West Virginia to Palm Beach in 1939, Dr. Bippus was a popular surgeon at the area’s hospitals. After selling their 748 Hi-Mount Road house to builder Robert Gottfried, who built his own home on the site, Dr. and Mrs. Bippus moved permanently to Lyndhurst in 1980.
Lyndhurst, facade. The exterior and the interior are believed to be as they were when the house was built in the mid-19th century.
Lyndhurst, c.1915.
The portico. A few steps and into the center entrance hall.
The center hall with drawstring ceiling lights, flanked by the double parlor to the left and an afternoon parlor and dining room to the right. With oak-paneled doors, each principal room features dentil moldings. The original floors are composed of nine-inch-wide pine planks.
The entrance hall cloth mural, detail.
The afternoon parlor, located to the west of the entrance hall.
Collectibles from another era set atop one of the eight fireplaces.
Looking from the dining room to a front parlor, highlighted by an elaborate Greek-motif hand-carved cornice.
The upstairs landing features another cloth mural.
An upstairs bedroom at Lyndhurst.
If you go:

Goodwood Plantation
1600 Miccosukee Road

Pebble Hill Plantation
1251 Plantation Parkway
US 319 South
Thomasville, Georgia
Photographs by Augustus Mayhew. Historic photographs courtesy of the Florida Photographic Collection at the State Archives of Florida.

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