597 Barnsley Gardens Road NW, Adairsville, Bartow County, Georgia

Built in 1844, for Godfrey Barnsley (1805-1873) and his wife Julia Henrietta Scarborough (1810-1845). Not to be confused with The Woodlands, one of the châtelaines of this house was a direct inspiration for Scarlet O'Hara in Gone with the Wind (1936). Situated in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Barnsley built his mansion on land sacred to the Cherokees and his family's 100-year occupation of the site was plagued by tragedy. The mansion (a romantic ruin today) was lost to a tornado but the magnificent gardens - one of only a few surviving gardens of the antebellum south - were restored by Bavarian Royalty, and blessed by Cherokees. Today, the gardens form part of the luxurious "Barnsley Gardens Resort" a popular wedding venue etc.....

This house is best associated with...

Godfrey Barnsley

Godfrey Barnsley, Cotton Merchant, of Adairsville, Georgia


Julia Henrietta Scarborough

Mrs Julia Henrietta (Scarborough) Barnsley


Julia Bernard Barnsley

Mrs Julia (Barnsley) Baltzell, von Schwartz


James Peter Baltzell

Captain J.P. Baltzell, Provost Marshal of the Confederate Army


Charles Henry von Schwartz

Captain Charles H. von Schwartz, of Woodlands, Adairsville, Georgia


Adelaide Baltzell

Mrs "Addie" (Baltzell) Saylor


Benjamin Franklin Armington Saylor

Benjamin F.A. Saylor, Mineralogist


Harry O'Bryan Saylor

Harry O. Saylor, killed by his brother at Woodland, Adairsville, Georgia


Barnsley was born into a family in England already engaged in the cotton business. He came to America in 1824, establishing himself as a cotton buyer in Savannah and New Orleans while setting up a shipping company to export his merchandise to Europe. His first shipment went to Norway and in gratitude King Charles III (1763-1844) sent him a set of iron chairs. Not before long, Barnsley was one of the ten wealthiest men in the south. 

Barnsley's intention had then been to return to England but in the late 1830s he was persuaded by three friends - Charles Wallace Howard (1811-1876), William Henry Stiles (1809-1865) and Colonel Francis Stebbins Bartow (1816-1861) - to join them in an expedition with a mind to developing land in northwest Georgia. The expedition was a success, and each of them purchased large estates in what became Bartow County.

In 1841, Barnsley built a manor house with extensive gardens on his new 10,000-acre plantation where he and Julia could raise their children in the cooler air. The site on which he chose to build his mansion - an acorn-shaped hill - had belonged to the Cherokees who'd been cleared from the area in 1838. Despite the concerns of his beloved wife - and his own interest in the occult and spiritualism - Barnsley took no heed of the warnings told that destroying the sacred site would result in a curse on his household. 

Royal Furnishings in Rural Georgia

Barnsley hired slaves and white farmhands from local planters and oversaw construction of his 24-room Italianate mansion that he named Woodlands. According to an article written in 1936 for the Portsmouth Daily Times, the house was also known as Barnsley Hall and was a replica of a family home in the north of England, though otherwise this remains unsubstantiated. A tower stood out from the central section of his elaborate two-story house that was flanked by wings either side. Barnsley wrote to a friend, 

There are six or seven different style of windows, giving variety yet harmonizing... all the walls are of brick. The campanile (tower) is three stories high - on the first floor is the drawing room, library, billiard room, vestibule, hall, dining room (measuring 26 feet in length), breakfast room, pantry, bathrooms etc.

A large cistern cleverly disguised within the central tower fed cold water to the house and gardens. Hot water for the bathrooms was heated in the copper tank in the kitchen wing. This wing consisted of a downstairs kitchen for the servants and the main one upstairs - with an automatic spring-wound spit for roasting meat - that could cook for 100 guests!

Barnsley was a connoisseur of fine art and furniture, and he frequently toured Europe to collect "elegant furnishings" for his new home such as paintings and Venetian mirrors, but also a Louis XVI bed and a grandfather clock and toiletries that had belonged to Queen Marie-Antoinette (1755-1793) of France. The mahogany furniture in the dining room had belonged to the last of Brazil's emperors; the table comfortably sat 40 guests; and, the Barnsley crest was emblazoned on each of the 500-piece china dinner service.

The walls and doors of the Barnsley mansion were panelled in hand-carved wood made in London; silver key plates were also crafted in England; and, the mantels surrounding the fireplaces were made of black and white marble imported from Italy. By 1864, Barnsley's home was all but complete, except for parquet floors and the main hand-carved curving staircase that had been made in England but was captured at Nashville during the Civil War and shipped elsewhere!

Barnsley's Gardens

The extensive gardens for which the estate is known today were laid out by landscape architect P.J. Berckman, of Augusta, in the style of America's most prominent landscape designer of that period, Andrew Jackson Downing (1815-1852). Shrubs and trees were imported from all corners of the world, including many cacti and every known variety of rose. The lawns and terraces are laid out around a 20-acre oval maze made up of boxwood brought over from England. Italian statues and fountains were interspersed throughout and there is a rock garden with boulders dragged by ox from the mountains.

Lining the drive to the main house and sheltering the gravel paths are trees such as lindens, firs, chestnuts, Scottish rowens, Japanese yews; and, spruce and hemlock from Norway. After the death of his wife, it was at the fountain in the center of the maze where Barnsley felt her presence willing him on to complete the project he had started for her. Soon, his neighbours began to refer to the place as "Barnsley Gardens".

And So Begins the Barnsley Curse...

Almost immediately, the Barnsleys must have started to suspect that a curse really had been placed on their home: no sooner had work began on the house than Barnsley's business took a turn for the worse. But, the first real tragedies came when their youngest son died and shortly afterwards Mrs Barnsley contracted tuberculosis, going to her grave in 1845, just one year after work had started. Their daughter, Adelaide Barnsley (1834-1858), died at the house in 1858 and four years later another son, Harold Barnsley (1832-1862), disappeared in the Far East - reputedly killed by Chinese pirates at Shanghai while collecting artwork and specimens of exotic shrubbery for the house on the cursed land.

Suffering Through the Civil War

During the Civil War, a skirmish took place between Union and Confederate cavalries on the grounds of Woodlands in 1864. Barnsley's close friend, Colonel Richard Gordon Earle (1815-1864) was shot five times and died as he rode up into the gardens, approaching the kitchen wing of the house to warn the family of the imminent arrival of the Yankees. 

As a British subject, Barnsley requested protection and Union General James Birdseye McPherson (1828-1864) gave orders to leave Woodlands untouched, but he was not obeyed: Having heard of Barnsley's wealth, Yankee soldiers entered the premises and in the course of searching for hidden gold smashed several Italian statues, china settings, crystal glassware and windows. They found no gold, but Barnsley watched helplessly as they slashed his artwork, stole rare books from his library, kicked holes in the hand-carved panelling and decimated his cellar of vintage wines, whiskies and brandy.

Barnsley had invested a large part of his fortune in Confederate war bonds and by the end of the conflict his finances were severely affected. Returning to New Orleans in a bid to restore his fortune, he left the plantation in the hands of his daughter, Julia Bernard Barnsley (1836-1899) and her first husband Captain James Peter Baltzell (d.1868), the former Provost Marshal of the Confederate Army.

Mrs Baltzell, "Forever in Some Scrape or Another"...

In order to maintain the ailing plantation, the Baltzells made use of the estate's forests and started a timber shipping business. During this time, Julia dug turnips from the ground with which to feed her family and protected her property with a shotgun. But, just three years later, Captain Baltzell, who had escaped the war without a scratch, was crushed to death on the estate by a falling tree. His gravestone commemorates him as, "the man who saved Woodlands after the war".

Barnsley's two surviving sons, George Scarborough Barnsley (1837-1918) and Lucien Barnsley (1840-1892), had both fought for the Confederate Army and rather than swearing an oath of allegiance to the new United States they uprooted to Brazil. But, judging by their correspondence, they still maintained a keen interest in the running of the estate.

In the meantime, Julia had joined her father at New Orleans and in 1872 took for her second husband Captain Charles Henry von Schwartz (d.1885), a former Confederate blockade runner. The following year, Godfrey Barnsley died and with her new husband Julia took his body back to Woodlands in a copper casket to be buried.

The estate was divided equally between Barnsley's children. Julia and her husband spent the majority of their time in New Orleans and although they could not afford to maintain the house and gardens, they continued to keep the plantation operational.

Noises & Apparitions...

Julia was said to have been beautiful, intelligent, and possessed of an iron-will. Her daughter also pointed out that her life was a difficult one and concerning Woodlands she was "forever in some scrape or another". Captain von Schwartz died in 1885 and having nowhere else to go, Julia returned to Woodlands with her daughter by her first marriage, Adelaide Baltzell, and together they set about making the house habitable and cutting back the overgrown gardens. "Addie" grew attached to the place and became to determined to restore it, though she never told her mother of the apparitions she had seen of her grandmother and Colonel Earle; nor, about the noises she heard throughout the house.

In 1897, Addie married Benjamin Franklin Armington Saylor (1859-1912), an entrepreneurial mineralogist whose original motives for arriving at Woodlands - under an assumed alias - remain questionable. Nonetheless, by the time of their wedding Saylor had revealed his true identity and the marriage seemed to be a happy one.

The Tornado of 1906

Addie's mother died two years later and she and her husband took over the estate. Despite his various business ventures, they still lacked the money to properly restore the old mansion and in 1906 tragedy struck again when a tornado swept through the estate and took with it the roof of the main house. The Saylors salvaged what furniture they could and moved into the kitchen wing, the only part of the house that had remained in tact. In 1912, Saylor died and Addie was left to eke out enough from the plantation in order to bring up her three young children and two stepchildren.

The Real Scarlet O'Hara?

It is thought that Margaret Munnerlyn Mitchell (1900-1949) first heard of Woodlands after reading St. Elmo (1866), a bestseller in its time by Augusta Jane Evans (1835-1909), that told the story of the plight of a plantation in northwest Georgia given the fictional name Le Bocage - French for The Woodlands. Mitchell insisted that a friend take her to meet Addie Saylor, and according to Clent Coker in his book, Barnsley Gardens at Woodlands, The Illustrious Dream (2000), she was overwhelmed with the stories Addie told of the hardships her mother endured during the Civil War. When Mitchell published her now infamous classic, Gone with the Wind (1936), the fictional character she created, Scarlet O'Hara, bore several similarities to Mrs Julia Baltzell/von Schwartz.

Murder in the Family

The final tragedy of Woodlands was played out between the Saylors two sons, James Preston Saylor (1900-1986) - known as Preston - and his younger brother Harry Saylor (1901-1935). As boys, they were not unaware of the Indian curse and the ghostly goings on at their family home: In 1918, Harry opened the front door of the house to see his great uncle, George Scarborough Barnsley (1837-1918), standing there. Harry was surprised as he knew George to be in Brazil, but his surprise soon turned to shock when the apparition melted away in front of his eyes. A few weeks later, it transpired that George Barnsley had died that day in Sao Paulo - at precisely the same time he was seen at the door. 

By the 1930s, Preston had become a nationally recognized heavyweight boxer, known in the ring as "K.O. Duggan". However, the blows he had received to his head during the course of his career had serious repercussions on his mental health. Following a fight with a neighbour who died as a result, he was convicted of manslaughter and committed to an insane asylum. He already blamed his younger brother for having him committed and his ill-feelings toward him only increased when Harry took on the management of the estate that Preston considered to be his birthright.

In 1935, Preston escaped the asylum and made his way back to Woodlands. Hiding, he overheard Harry and his mother discussing plans for rebuilding the main house, and seized with a fit of insane jealousy, he burst into the living room and shot his brother through the heart. Harry died there in his mother's arms, and the blood stains can still be made out on the floor today.

The McCleskys & Bavarian Royalty

Following Addie Saylor's death in 1942, the estate was sold and the contents of the house. Curators from the Savannah History Museum snapped up several pieces of furniture which can still be seen on display. The new proprietor of Woodlands was Walter Earle McCleskey (1910-2002), of Blackwell, who used the land for further farming. 

In 1958, McClesky moved to the estate with his wife, Emily Shannon West (1918-1992), and their young family. They remained there for thirty years, during which time they demolished the right wing of the house as it had become unsafe, while the gardens and ruins became overgrown with wisteria and kudzo.

In 1988, the McCleskeys sold Barnsley Gardens to Hubertus Viktor (b.1946), 8th Prince Fugger von Babenhausen of Bavaria and his wife Alexandra (b.1948), Princess zu Oettingen-Oettingen. Prior to the purchase, the prince had become interested in acquiring land near Atlanta and it was his friend, Carl Cofer, who brought the existence of Barnsley Gardens to his attention.

A Cherokee Blessing & the Barnsley Gardens Resort

It is said that the Fugger von Babenhausens had the ruins blessed and any curse removed by Cherokees before starting an extensive restoration plan of the estate - returning the magnificent gardens to their original splendor. In 1991, the historic site was opened to the public as the "Barnsley Gardens Resort". Aside from enjoying the gardens, guests can stay in the luxurious cottages and enjoy fine southern cuisine, the championship golf course, the spa and a variety of outdoor activities including tennis, fly-fishing and horseback riding. Barnsley Gardens is also a very popular venue for weddings and social events.

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Contributed by Mark Meredith on 25/10/2018 and last updated on 01/11/2020.


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