MARIETTA — After years of jockeying by community members over the future of the 180-plus-year-old Oakton house in Marietta, site work has begun on three houses to be built on a slice of its front yard.
The news comes nearly three years after Marietta allowed owner Will Goodman to subdivide the roughly 5.5 acre property for future development. The three lots along St. Mary’s Lane, each about a third of an acre, were sold earlier this year for $195,000 each.
Marietta councilman Johnny Walker, who’s been the Realtor for the out-parcels, said developers plan to build three spec homes on the lots. The parcels extend across the southern driveway leading up to the home, and Walker said the driveway may yet be relocated.
Estimates around floor plans and square footage, Walker added, are still in flux given the current dynamism of the housing market, but he estimates the homes will sell for $900,000 to $1 million. Walker is preparing to list another three-quarter-acre parcel at the property’s north end.
Goodman told the MDJ the architectural style of the three new homes is subject to his review. The key, he said, will be getting a design which is attractive from both the St. Mary’s Lane side and the main property.
About an acre of land directly in front of the home will remain undeveloped for now, and lies under a scenic easement imposed by the city over a decade ago. That means the view of the home from Kennesaw Avenue will remain unobstructed unless the Marietta City Council agrees to lift the easement.
“If somebody buys the property and wants to eliminate the easement, they have to go back and get City Council to agree to waive it,” Marietta Development Director Rusty Roth explained in 2018 when the division of the property was first approved.
Goodman said the idea, ultimately, is to maintain the “soul of the house.” He’s turned down a number of offers over the years from developers who said they would knock down the whole place. And in a sense, he said, downsizing has been the fate of the property for decades.
“When my grandfather bought it in 1939, it was 325 acres,” Goodman said. Much of that became the Oakton subdivision accessed via St. Mary’s Lane.
The main parcel of the home has now been whittled down to about three acres, and Goodman says he’s got two contracts under negotiation on the house itself.
The house was built in 1838 by Judge David Irwin, a prominent citizen in Marietta’s early days. It changed hands several times over the following decades, and was commandeered by Confederate Maj. Gen. William L. Loring as a base of operations during the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain.
The property, however, is not under any sort of historic preservation designation, a point which caused consternation for admirers of what is sometimes claimed to be the oldest continuously occupied home in Marietta. In 2017, residents petitioned the city council to buy the property outright, as Roswell did with its historic Mimosa Hall.
The idea failed to gain traction with council members, however, and Goodman put the property up for a $2.5 million asking price before starting the subdividing process in 2018.
“It’s the house, and the gardens, and the barn, and the front yard, you know, that's all part of the historic fabric,” said David Freedman, Chair of the Marietta Historic Preservation Commission.
“I'm sure it would have been Goodman’s preference for somebody to come in and buy the whole parcel and preserve it,” Freedman added. “I don’t fault him at all. It’s his property. I do hope he can find a buyer for the house so they can take care of it and preserve it.”