House Envy: North Georgia’s historic Rockdale Plantation has a Cherokee pedigree

This immaculately preserved eighteenth-century home has been updated with modern amenities
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For almost 15 years, Kerry Hix dreamed of owning Rockdale Plantation in Fairmount, Georgia, an hour north of Atlanta. “I’d drive past it and imagine how I might restore the home and its outbuildings,” he says. A pure example of a Native American Cherokee log home, the main house was built c. 1785 and is registered as part of the National Historic Trail of Tears. Sadly, the owner refused to sell the property, even though the buildings were deteriorating rapidly.

Finally, in 1994, Hix got his chance to buy the 47-acre property. “A friend called to tell me it was going to be auctioned the next day,” he says. “I’d never been to an auction, but I went; and, before I knew it, I was bidding.” The rest, as they say, is history, as Hix made the winning offer.

The hard work then began for Hix and his wife, Sue, who both appreciated the historical significance of the property and regarded its restoration as a labor of love. Renovation on the main house included rebuilding the original foundation, bracing the chimneys with concrete, and insulating the windows, walls, floors, and ceilings. “We did a little bit at a time, being very careful not to damage anything,” says Kerry, who painstakingly numbered all the damaged logs, which he then replaced with logs of the same type from the same era.

He also took great care to preserve the stone chimneys and heart pine walls, floors, and ceilings. The paint was even professionally color-matched so that each room looks the same now as it did in the 1700s.

Additionally, Kerry installed modern conveniences, including electric wiring, up-to-date plumbing, and a top-of-the-line heating and air-conditioning system. “Everything is up to code or better,” he says. “I renovated this house with usability, efficiency, and longevity in mind.”

The 6,000-square-foot home has six bedrooms, including a master on the main level, four full bathrooms, a powder room, a living room, a dining room, a family room, two laundry rooms, a spacious kitchen, and six fully restored working fireplaces. The property also includes two ponds, a 1,000-square-foot guest house, a two-story log cook house, a small caretaker’s house, and a barn.

Soon after purchasing Rockdale Plantation, Kerry and Sue received a document from the National Register of Historic Places stating that the property’s original owner was of Cherokee origin, but it didn’t provide that person’s name. Sue contacted the Georgia Chapter of the Trail of Tears Association and soon discovered that the plantation’s first owner was George Washington Adair, a wealthy planter whose grandfather had married into the Cherokee tribe. George’s eldest son, William Penn Adair, became a prominent Cherokee leader and advocate who served in the Confederate Army and organized the Second Cherokee Mounted Volunteers.

While restoring the guest house, known as the Traveler’s Rest House, Kerry and Sue found several names scrawled on the walls. Research revealed that it was common practice among the Union soldiers who marched through the South during the Civil War to leave calling cards of sorts on the walls of the homes they occupied. It’s also said that General William Tecumseh Sherman spared Rockdale Plantation because he had attended West Point with the property’s then-owner, James Freeman.

Kerry and Sue, who have poured their hearts into restoring this historic property, hope its next owners will cherish it as much as they do. “This house is a living, breathing thing,” says Kerry. “It needs the right steward.”

Rockdale Plantation, located at 1921 Highway 411 in Fairmount, is on the market for $3,800,000. For more information, contact Peggy Bouck of Harry Norman Realtors at 404-386-3377 or peggy.bouck@harrynorman.com.

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