Judge John Harris built the home as his town house in 1836. He owned a large plantation near Covington that was pilfered by federal troops in 1864 when they were beginning Sherman’s march to the Sea. The Atlanta History Center has journal entries from Sherman and Harris describing details of Sherman’s thirty day stay at the Harris Plantation.
After the Civil War and the property exchanging owners, Robert Franklin Wright bought the property for one thousand dollars. Robert and his wife Salina named the house The Cedars. They refurbished the interior and added a boxwood garden to the rear of the mansion.
In 1903 they sold the home to Nathanial S. Turner. Turner was an affluent cotton broker who owned Covington Mills. The home eventually acquired a new name, Whitehall. He added the third floor with the dormer windows, an expanded colonnade, and a second-floor.
The home has been renovated and care has been given to preserve this remarkable piece of our history. It is on the National Register of Historic Places.
This is a clip from the book David O. Selznick’s Hollywood
Margaret Mitchell saw a photograph of the house in the Atlanta Journal in February, 1939. She sent the clipping to Wilbur Kurtz, an Atlanta historian and Civil War authority who was in Hollywood consulting with the set designers of Gone With the Wind, saying, “I like this for Ashley’s home,” referring to Twelve Oaks.
A site to see
For many years, people have traveled from all over the country just to see beautiful antebellum homes like this up close. The following excerpt is from the chapter regarding the history of this particular property in the Glory of Covington by William Bailey Williford and tells of a home tour back in 1948 that included this home and drew nationwide attention:
“Covington’s beautiful old houses were first opened to the public in 1948 for a tour sponsored by the Covington Garden Club… More than 2,500 actually descended upon the little city, causing The Covington News to report a few days later that “Covington is back to normal again after one of the biggest invasions since Sherman’s army marched through theses streets to the sea…Police tried vainly to handle the constantly swelling tide which poured in…from all directions.” Visitors came from as far away as New York and California. An antiques dealer expressed amazement at the beautiful homes and their handsome furnishings, and a woman ventured the opinion that Covington had more lovely old houses than could be found in Natchez.”