Sept. 2 – MARIETTA – After years of wrangling among parishioners about the future of the 180-year-old Oakton house in Marietta, construction work began on three houses that are to be built on a piece of the front garden.
The news comes almost three years after Marietta allowed owner Will Goodman to subdivide the approximately 5.5 acre property for future development. The three lots along St. Mary’s Lane, about a third of a morning each, sold for $ 195,000 each earlier this year.
Marietta Councilor Johnny Walker, who was the realtor for the lots, said the developers plan to build three special homes on the lots. The packages span the south driveway that leads to the house, and Walker said the driveway could still be relocated.
Estimates of floor plans and square feet, Walker added, are still in flux given the current housing market dynamics, but he estimates homes will sell for $ 900,000 to $ 1 million. Walker is preparing to list another three quarters of an acre lot on the north end of the property.
Goodman told the MDJ that the architectural style of the three new homes is under review. The key, he said, will be a design that is attractive from both the St. Mary’s Lane side and the main lot.
About one hectare of land in front of the house will remain undeveloped for the time being and is subject to a landscape easement imposed by the city over a decade ago. This means that unless the Marietta City Council approves the easement waiver, the view of the house from Kennesaw Avenue will be unobstructed.
“If someone buys the property and wants to lift the easement, they have to go back and get the city council to agree to forego it,” said Marietta Development Director Rusty Roth in 2018 when the division of the property was first approved.
Goodman said the ultimate idea is to preserve the “soul of the house”. He’s turned down a number of offers from developers over the years who said they were going to tear the whole house down. And in a way, dismantling has been the fate of the property for decades.
The story goes on
“When my grandfather bought it in 1939, it was 325 acres,” Goodman said. Much of this became the Oakton Subdivision, accessible from St. Mary’s Lane.
The main lot of the house has now been reduced to about three acres, and Goodman says he has two contracts under negotiation for the house himself.
The house was built in 1838 by Judge David Irwin, a prominent citizen in Marietta’s early days. It changed hands several times in the following decades and was requisitioned by Confederate Major General William L. Loring as a base of operations during the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain.
The property is not a listed building, however, a point that stunned admirers of what is sometimes claimed to be the oldest continuously inhabited house in Marietta. In 2017, local residents petitioned the city council to buy the property in full, as did Roswell with its historic Mimosa Hall.
The idea didn’t resonate with council members, however, and Goodman offered the property for $ 2.5 million before starting the division process in 2018.
“The house and gardens and barn and front yard are part of the historic fabric,” said David Freedman, chairman of the Marietta Historic Preservation Commission.
“I’m sure Goodman would have preferred someone to come in and buy the whole package and save it,” added Freedman. “I don’t mind him at all. It’s his property. I hope he can find a buyer for the house so they can take care of it and keep it.”