With the approach of the summer vacation season, Atlanta travelers start planning for visits to exotic locations. They search for world-class resorts that offer great accommodations, plenty of activities, fine dining and some interesting sites and history to absorb.
Those travelers might want to set their sights a bit closer to home. All of those qualities can be found just 60 miles northwest of the city near Adairsville at Barnsley Resort. Set on 3,300 acres of rolling hills the property has a pedigree going back to the 1840s. Yet, it is in the modern world, as well, in all the senses of the words.
Today Barnsley Resort has accommodations laid out like an 18th century European village, offering rooms, suites and estate cabins. Fine dining is available in the Woodland Grill and Rice House restaurants, with lighter fare in spring through fall in the outdoor Beer Garden.
Other amenities are a championship golf course, spa, garden tours, swimming pools, horseback riding, tennis courts, hiking trails, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, a sporting clays course and fall and winter hunting. The manor house ruins have been refurbished to host outdoor special events, as well.
The old Kitchen of the manor house now houses a museum, covering much of the Barnsley family history. It was in this house that brothers and Barnsley heirs Harry and Preston Saylor added to the grim lore of the estate. Preston was a professional prize fighter, working under the name of K.O. Dugan in the 1920s and ‘30s. Brother Harry was a shady character who conspired to break the estate up and sell it to developers. A dispute erupted between the two in 1935, leading to Preston shooting his brother to death. The blood stains are still visible on the museum floor and a stray bullet hole is visible in the door.
Indeed, the history of the Barnsley estate is one steeped in tragic lore
The property was first acquired by Godfrey Barnsley in the early 1840s. He began building his home on the estate he called Woodland, as a present to his wife Julia. She, however, died before the manor house was complete. At first Godfrey abandoned the project, but, after Julia appeared to him in a dream telling him to finish it for their children and grandchildren, the house was completed.
The house and property were pillaged and vandalized during the Civil War. As Gen. William T. Sherman’s army moved toward Atlanta, the troops disobeyed orders and stole everything that was movable. Godfrey then moved to New Orleans, never returning to Woodland.
His children and later heirs, however, did reclaim the land. For many years they lived in the kitchen wing of the manor house, which was the only undamaged portion after a tornado blew the roof off the rest in 1906.
Finally in 1942 the last heirs moved out and the property sat vacant. In 1988 Prince Hubertus Fugger of Bavaria purchased the property and began refurbishing it as a resort. It opened to the public in 1991.
Now travelers from Atlanta are just a short drive away from enjoying the resort that offers something for just about everyone.