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How We Got Great Oaks

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I flew a North American T-6 from Greenville, Ms. to the Marianna Airport along with about 150 other pilots on the 31 of March 1953. I instructed here until the end of 1960.

When I first started instructing here we were flying Piper P-18 aircraft (Cubs). We were landing in the grass north of the East – West runway where the experiment station is now growing cotton. We flew our traffic pattern at 600' and some of the patterns took us over Greenwood, so the first time I saw the house was from the air. I subsequently visited the site, and was permitted to go through the house. I was quiet impressed with it and told Becky and the girls about it. We drove out and looked, but we did not go in. We had three girls then, Becky Lee 7, Claudia 5, and Priscilla 3. Rachel was born in 1958 about two weeks after a three inch March snow fall. We had talked about buying the house for seven years, but never researched anything about the house. After Christmas vacation in Tennessee we were returning through Eufaula, Al. and the girls got quite motivated by the lovely homes that lined the main street there and they insisted we buy the house is Greenwood.

So, after getting home, I learned it was owned by Mr. Louis Smith of Graceville. I wrote him a letter indicating I was interested in buying the house and asked him to give me a price if he was interested in selling it. In about four days we received his price in a very brief letter and we agreed to buy it. Mrs. Smith required us to agree to restore the house and paint it white, and paint the shutters green. If you are following this series, please try to remember this requirement, because I will tell you a little interesting story near the end.

In 1972, we tried to get the house listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but we did not have adequate information regarding its history. About this time I met Etta Bryan Carroll. She was a granddaughter of Hamilton Bryan. She told me she knew where all the information on the house was located. She took me to the court house and showed me Hamilton's 21 annual reports as was required by Mr. Bryan's will. This information we received made us successful in getting it listed on the National Register. Miss Etta's home was on Lafayette Street in Marianna where Jim's Steakhouse is now located.

After the war, Mrs. Penelope Bryan wrote to the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA and asked them to recommend a tutor for her girls. They recommended Mr. Louis Smith from North Carolina. He came here and taught them, and later married Emily. We bought the house from their grandson. We are the first people outside the Bryan family to own the house.

Now we will give you some more pictures with comments about the restoration.

Image 1:  The house as it appeared when we bought it in 1961. Note the ladders by the windows. They were fire escapes installed when it was a school. Also, note the addition. This was added to make that space into a kitchen. The original kitchen and laundry were in a separate building that was located about where the camera was set up for making this picture. The foundation for the chimney is extant.

Image 2:  This shows the work in progress. Looking through the old kitchen framing you can see the south entrance we now use. If you look very carefully where the back porch meets the wall you can see a figured post that we used for a pattern.

Image 3:  Carpenter work proceeds all along this area. We had to do extreme cornice work. We are enclosing the old kitchen area and making it into a utility room. We are installing a double window for the room we now use for the kitchen. This was originally a bedroom.

Image 4:  The exterior is nearly finished except for porch roofs. The boy on the back porch is John Toman, the son of Joe and Joyce Toman. He is now 47 years old and lives in Tallahassee.

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Last modified onThursday, 02 January 2014 18:48
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