by Jude Bennett
In 1828 John Washington Woolfolk sent his nephew, Sowell Woolfolk, to Columbus from his native Virginia to select lands to bring his slaves and settle in the area. Sowell Woolfolk founded plantations on Upatoi Creek and on both sides of the river for his uncle. He remained in Columbus and was elected State Senator at the county elections in October 1830, and killed in a duel in 1832.
John Woolfolk’s total estate originally included some 70,000 acres. He was a slave owner with some 180 slaves working in his farm and in his home. The estate extended from Wynnton north to present DeLaunay Place, east to Weracoba Creek, west to the foot of Wynn’s Hill, and south along Macon Road. The land was deeded from one Mr. Purmadus Reynolds to Mr. Woolfolk on April 4th, 1832 and recorded on July 11th, 1842. Construction on the house began in 1837 and was completed around 1840. The architect is believed to be a Cuban named Enrico Lopez. The two story structure is in the Greek Revival style. There were eight columns in the Doric order in front of the house, and columns along both sides of the house that arched the wrap around porch. Over the front porch and both sides of the house balconies were constructed with wrought iron railings. The front door was treated with a transom and sidelights, engaged pilasters in antis supporting an entablature carved with a classical egg and dart motif. The windows in the front were ten feet from floor to ceiling, later replaced with French style doors in the 1925 renovation. The house’s timbers are 30 feet in length. In the back of the house a door led to the basement in which Mr. Woolfolk housed slaves and livestock. Part of Mr. Woolfolk’s estate, the land to the west of the house, was sold to Joel Early Hurt and is where the house “Dinglewood” currently still stands. This house, though not as old as the Woolfolk house, is also on the National Register Of Historic Places.
From October 1834 until October 1835 John Woolfolk served as State Representative. He died in May of 1861 at the beginnings of the Civil War and left the estate property (1000 acres) to his daughter, Mrs. Cornelia Walker and her five children. In his will, made out April 29th, 1861, it was Mr. Woolfolk’s “will and desire” that his slaves be included among his heirs and all assets and properties divided to include them as well, and that “in no case should the families be separated”. Part of the land owned and deeded among the surviving heirs included parcels that would become the headquarters of the great military post Fort Benning. Mr. Woolfolk’s furnishings in the house, as well as his black horses, carriages, were left to his eldest daughter Cornelia Walker. Also, as a special bequest, he left her his personal hired man “Isaiah”, to whom, on account of his faithfulness, Mr, Woolfolk desired that his daughter be particularly “kind and indulgent”. In 1872, 5/6th of the land was deeded to Duncan H. Burts and William E. Parramore. In 1873, 4/6th of the property was deeded to Margaret C. Walker and 1/6th to William L. Salisbury (who later deeded his part to his wife Sara in 1878. Sara Salisbury deeded her portion to Homer W. Dozier, the husband of the former Margaret C. Walker. By 1882 Margaret Dozier had obtained all parts of the property devised by John Woolfolk to daughter Cornelia and her children. this included a parcel of land measuring 6 1/3rd acres (more or less) which was deeded to William A. Little in 1883. A survey of the land done afterwards was known as the Little Survey.
The Honorable Judge William A. Little was born in Baldwin County, Georgia in 1838. He entered the Civil War as a private in 1861 and moved up the ranks to serve as Captain. In 1868 he was the Assistant Secretary of the State Senate. In 1872 he was Solicitor General of the Chattahoochee Circuit. In 1877, while residing in Columbus, he was a member of the Constitutional Convention. In 1882 he served in the House Of Representatives and chairman of the Finance Committee. In 1888 he was speaker of the general Assembly of the State Of Georgia. in 1891 he served by appointment for one year as Attorney general of the state, refusing to become a candidate for the office.
In 1893 the property was deeded to Adelaide Victoria de Graffenreid Waddell who sold it to Milo B. Clason in 1896 but retained it again in 1902. Adelaide Victoria de Graffenreid was the daughter of Dr. E. L. de Graffenried, one of the first settlers in Columbus in 1825. Her husband, Major James Fleming Waddell of North Carolina served with distinction in the Mexican War. He was personally cited by Congress for certain specific services rendered. Mrs. Waddell may have been at the time of her death the oldest member of the Episcopal Church of Columbus.
Mrs. Waddell died in 1922 and the land left was willed to her five children - Mary Fleming Clason, Elba Waddell, Bos de Graffenreid Waddell, Annie K. Warren, and A. S. Waddell.
Mary Fleming Waddell married Milo B. Clason, an optometrist in Columbus. Their daughter was Elizabeth Clason, who married George S. Kyle. Their son is Clason Kyle, noted Columbus Historian, author, and friend of mine.
Mrs. Minnie L. Flournoy bought the property from Mrs. Adelaide Victoria de Graffenreid Waddell’s children in 1923. She altered the structure in order to make apartments at the time. The side columns and balconies and two of the front columns were later removed at the time of this renovation and side rooms were added to make dining areas for the two ground floor apartments. The center balcony over the front entrance was altered to make two separate doors leading out onto the balcony. In total, there were five apartments; two upstairs, two on the ground floor, and one in the basement. All apartments were each two bedroom living spaces. The side room additions were constructed in the same style as the rest of the house to make it more livable, but at the expense of altering the original structure. It came to be known as the Colonial Apartments.
The house was sold to William H. Campbell in February 1955. The property was deeded from Mr. Campbell to his wife Hazel G. Campbell in April of 1963.
On September 12th, 1967, during the Historic Columbus Building Inventory, Carl Feiss, A.I.A. and A.I.P. gave the structure a “priority one” rating with “exceptional” architectural significance and “great neighborhood importance”. The house was submitted to the National Registry Of Historic Places in 1978
Cliff M. Averett purchased the part of Lot 12, Little Wynnton Survey, from Mrs. Campbell in 1972 with the intention of destroying the house and building condominiums. It changed owners Mr. Averitt to David Cummings, then to Edgar Houston, then to Larry Bussey, and finally to the Historic Columbus Foundation, Inc. who retain the property to this day.
The present structure is located at 1615 12th Street. Its interior features many originals that have survived from the time the Woolfolk family lived there. The original marble fireplaces and mantels and carved woodwork that were brought from France stand out with their intricate fire screens. There is much of the ornate molding that remains from the middle 1800’s. One of the main rooms is part of the original ballroom. The floors are original hardwood but in poor shape as are the walls where plaster is chipping and eroding. In the main hall is the curved mahogany staircase leading to the second floor, with curled fretwork on the side of the stairs. There is also a skylight above the second floor landing that was very helpful in lighting up the interior. The original silver knobs on the doors and some fixtures remain as well. The entablature is unadorned except for a parapet, added when the east and west porticoes were removed and replaced by low lying wings.
I’m trying to gather photos of the house to post here, and have only found one of the original house prior to any modifications to it’s exterior. There are no interior photos available to Historic Columbus to my knowledge, but I will continue searching. I am in contact now and then with one of the descendants’ sons, Clason Kyle, and will attempt to get any information available about the house and its mythology.
There is no record I can find of any criminal activity involving the house or any of its inhabitants, but I have yet to look in library files or contact other historians in the area. No known photos in the Historic Columbus archives are available of John Woolfolk, though it is certain that they exist.
This is a work in progress, any successive information I get will be added at the appropriate time.