For those of you who enjoy studying history and historic homes, Newton County, Georgia is a treasure trove of beautifully preserved homes and commercial edifices that make the community so unique. Many of the buildings located in the heart of Georgia’s Historic Heartland have been a part of the local landscape since the 1800’s, and you can find historic relics all over the area.
Because we offer historic homes in many different architectural styles that span the last 200 years, Newton County is a very popular hub for film and TV productions that shoot on-location in Covington, Oxford, Mansfield, Newborn, and Porterdale. Learn more about these locations in the following list of the 10 most famous historic homes in Newton County with a detailed description of their history, and what makes them so significant in our community:
10. Orna Villa
Located in small-town Oxford, Georgia, is a beautiful historic home that predates the Civil War. Named for his love for ornithology, Alexander Means purchased the home now known as Orna Villa or the “Bird House” from a Virginian named Richard Keenon Dearing. Dearing originally acquired 2,000 acres of land in 1825 and built a plantation house made from hand-hewn logs. When Means purchased the plantation home from Dearing, he remodeled it into the picturesque Greek-revival style home we see standing today.
Fans of locally-lensed The Vampire Diaries will recognize this home used to depict a fraternity house from the episode in Season 4 where Whitmore College students attend a “Murder House” party.
The historic legend of Orna Villa also lives on in the many ghost stories and hauntings reported there. Read this article by the Newton County Film Commission to learn more.
9. Starrsville Plantation
Starrsville is a small, unincorporated historic community just off County Highway 213 in Newton County. Scenic Starrsville Plantation was established in 1822 on 753 acres of beautiful countryside. The estate features a breathtaking pecan orchard, farm land, the original 4,000 sq. ft. barn, and the main house built in 1836.
The location is a popular wedding venue in addition to being used for film. Recently, Amazon Prime’s original series, Lore, shot on-location at Starrsville Plantation for various episodes. Tune in to this new series on October 13th to see if you can pick out scenes at this historic site!
8. Burge Plantation
Burge Plantation is located just off the beaten path in Mansfield, Georgia. When Wiley Burge first purchased the 202 acre land lot in 1809, the acreage was used for farming. The original house on the property is believed to have been built by Wiley Burge, but disappeared by the 1840’s. Wiley’s son, Thomas, inherited the land from his father, and added to the estate in the 1830’s, 40’s, and 50’s. In the 1830’s Thomas Burge built a house for his family on the site of the current family home.
The diary of Dolly Lunt Burge documents her firsthand account while watching Sherman’s troops march onto the land and raid their home. It’s quite a riveting story! You can read her diary entries and learn more here.
The land was used for farming and sharecropping for many years, but the property is now a popular wedding and banquet venue today.
7. Sandtown Place
Also located on the outskirts of Newton County in Mansfield, Georgia is the historic property known as Sandtown Place. This home was built in 1840 for Mr. John Broughton and provides a glimpse into our local history. Sandtown Place has been completely restored since it was originally built; however, the rich history at this location is still visible to visitors. The home features its original hand-hewn timbers as well as wide board floors and ceilings. The site also houses a general store built in 1880 on the property.
Sandtown Place is known as a popular venue for prom photos and wedding parties with its picturesque double stairway leading up to the front porch of the home.
6. The Corley House
This house, located on historic Floyd Street in Downtown Covington, was onced owned by Star Corley— hence the name, The Corley House. The home was erected in 1923, and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.
Recently, the home was featured in The Case for Christ, produced by Triple Horse Studios and filmed locally in our community. The film just released earlier in 2017, starring Mike Vogel and Erika Christensen.
5. Gaither Plantation
William Hulbert Gaither bought 875 acres of land and built the Gaither house around 1850. The home was lived in until about 1950 and was the center of a rural Georgia farm for 100 years. In 1881, Gaither deeded the house to his wife, and in 1890 he died. His wife, Cecilia, moved her and her son to Covington in 1906. However, they kept the plantation.
Many grandchildren and great-grandchildren of William Gaither remembered happy memories on the plantation. Memories of this gorgeous historic property live on in the many Hollywood productions that have featured scenes at this location, like Bobby Jones: A Stroke of Genius, The Vampire Diaries, Madea’s Family Reunion, and Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors.
4. Lee-Porter Mansion
This historic home is another local favorite among film and production crews. The home is called The Lee-Porter House, built sometime after 1912 by Lester Lee. The Lee Family resided in the home until 1924. The property was then sold to O.W. Porter on July 31st, 1924.
This home featuring beautiful Greek-revival architecture can be seen on the small screen in The Vampire Diaries, as it was used for Elena’s “safe house” in episode 17 of Season 2, Know Thy Enemy. The location was also used for filming many portions of HBO’s Bessie, starring Queen Latifah. The homeowners have shared us what an amazing experience it was to meet Queen Latifah and just how down-to-earth she was!
3. Dixie Manor
Dixie Manor is located just off the square in Downtown Covington. What truly makes this home stand out is its architecture and ghostly legends. The house was built in 1838 by Judge Thomas Franklin Jones for his wife, Elizabeth Scott. During this time, most wealthy families in the area were moving into Greek-revival style houses.
What distinguishes Dixie Manor is its early English Regency architecture, and the fact that it’s the only two-story brick antebellum home in Covington. This historic property is another relic that’s featured in productions like The Vampire Diaries.
2. Worthington Manor
Worthington Manor is also just off the square in Downtown Covington, and is known by most as Lockwood Mansion from The Vampire Diaries. This home was the setting for many parties and celebrations throughout the series, and was also the venue for the famous Steroline wedding in the series finale. The location was also used for filming an episode of Sleepy Hollow. But the history of this historic home wasn’t always so glamorous…
The entire house had to be renovated and remodeled before the current owners could move in. The original hardwood floors rotted, and the bathrooms had to be removed and relocated due to coding and plumbing issues. But, that doesn’t mean the integrity of this historic home was completely removed. Many original windows, doors, and bricks were salvaged and reused when possible. Today, this property is stunning!
1. The Twelve Oaks
Of all the famous historic homes in our area, The Twelve Oaks Bed & Breakfast is by far the most notable. This iconic antebellum home has been located just off the square since 1836. The mansion was originally built by Judge John Harris, but changed ownership throughout the decades as more improvements were added to the structure of the home. Robert Franklin Wright purchased the property after the Civil War and named the house The Cedars. He added a boxwood garden in the backyard of the home. Then, in 1903, the home was sold to Nathanial S. Turner. Turner was an affluent cotton broker who owned the Covington Mills. The location eventually acquired a new name, Whitehall. He added the third floor with the dormer windows, an expanded colonnade, and a second-floor.
We actually have Margaret Mitchell to thank for the current title of the property, named for her famous novel Gone with the Wind. In fact, Mitchell found the local Covington mansion within the Atlanta Journal in 1939 as she was searching for inspiration for the film based on her novel. The Bed & Breakfast has this page on display on which Mitchell wrote “I like this for Ashley’s home.” She also added another small note which reads “‘Twelve Oaks.’ This was not far from Atlanta.”
Since then, the Twelve Oaks has many claims to fame, including being featured in many publications and Hollywood productions like Vacation , The Vampire Diaries, In the Heat of the Night, Tyler Perry’s The Family That Preys, Rob Zombie’s Halloween II, HBO’sBessie, and a national Rooms To Go commercial with Cindy Crawford.
If you would like to learn more about the most famous historic homes in Newton County, plan a visit to experience this rich local history for yourself! Many of these homes are included in our historic home tour, or can be admired from the public sidewalk if you do your own self-guided exploration. Stop by the Newton County Visitor’s Bureau just off the Downtown Covington Square for information.