Please join Historic Athens on October 13th or 20th at 2 PM for the fifth installment of the 2019 Historic Athens Heritage Walks: Beech Haven. The summer house was constructed in 1910 from found stone and timber milled on the property. After many years of deterioration, it has a new roof and is stabilized, although there are many repairs still needed. It is slated to be a future public amenity as part of the Beech Haven property, which is on the 2020 SPLOST referendum this November. If passed, funds will be used to begin master planning for this future public greenspace. Photo credit: Nat Kuykendall.
Beech Haven is a hardwood forest bordered by the Middle Oconee River where it intersects the Atlanta Highway. Charles Rowland II and Effie Hampton Rowland purchased the property in 1909 from Thomas Epps, the father of Ben Epps, Georgia’s aviation pioneer. The Rowlands constructed an impressive Arts and Crafts house and landscape beginning in 1910 from found stone and timber milled on the property. Charles Rowland’s landscape was influenced by his 1914 trip through Asia as an observer for U.S. Presbyterian Missions and includes Arts and Crafts-influenced stonework, ponds, and the iconic camelback bridge. Berry College and Beech Haven are considered the two best examples of the Arts and Crafts style in Georgia, and Beech Haven is considered to have national significance. In 2005 Athens-Clarke County made its first purchase of riverfront property from Rowland descendants and later purchased additional land using grants and greenspace acquisition funding. Approximately 90 acres, including the Arts and Crafts summer house, is now held by Athens-Clarke County’s greenspace program and greenway network. The Beech Haven Park Improvements Project is on the list of SPLOST 2020 projects to be voted on in the November 5, 2019 referendum. If passed, funds will be used for the design, construction, and/or installation of improvements. Note: attendees must be able to walk up to two miles on unpaved paths. There is no charge for the tour itself, but registration requires a donation of $15 to Historic Athens for continued stabilization of the Summer House and other structures. This tour will be rescheduled in the event of rain. This tour will last approximately 2 hours.
Your tour guides:
Lucy Rowland is a Washington, DC native but has spent most of her adult life in Athens. She is a member of the ACC Planning Commission and has participated nationally and internationally in organizations that promote quality architecture and compact urban design, including the Congress for the New Urbanism and the Council of European Urbanism. Rowland is a graduate of Leadership Athens and has held several positions at the University of Georgia: as a research microbiologist, as a department head for 30 years at UGA Libraries and the College of Veterinary Medicine, and as the volunteer director of the Louis T. Griffith Library at the Georgia Museum of Art from 2010 to 2015. She received the 2014 M. Smitty Griffith Award for Volunteer of the Year from the Georgia Museum of Art. She actively participated in the fundraising to stabilize the summer house and the camel back bridge and has served as the Rowland family’s historian of the many Beech Haven stories.
Nat Kuykendall and his wife, Helen, moved to Athens in 2008 after both had careers in park planning and conservation. Nat retired after 32 years with the National Park Service, beginning as a seasonal ranger in the early 1970s at Great Smoky Mountains National Park and ending as chief of the Planning Division of the Denver Service Center, the NPS central office for planning and design. He is actively involved in conservation efforts in Athens, serves as chair of the Oconee Rivers Greenway Commission for Athens-Clarke County, and is on the board of the Oconee River Land Trust. Nat first saw Beech Haven in 2013 and was awed by its natural beauty and fascinating history. For the past four years, he has been collaborating with Lucy Rowland to lead tours of the site to raise public awareness of this special resource.