As soon as I came across photos of Barnsley Resort, I couldn’t wait to go. Not because of the resort – although it is certainly a nice one for people who like to ride, shoot or golf. I wanted to go because this 3,000-acre resort has its own spooky abandoned mansion. And … the ruins are decorated for Christmas. How cool is that?
The brick ruins are what’s left of the 1848 manor house, called Woodlands. It was built by Godfrey Barnsley for his wife, Julie, who died before its completion. Barnsley came to America from Liverpool in 1824 and quickly became one of the wealthiest men in the South with his shipping business and cotton trade. He bought 4,000 acres in Bartow County, Georgia, near Adairsville, with the plan to build a mansion for his beloved wife, Julia. She died in 1845 of a lung ailment, according to the Barnsley Resort website. In 1846, “Barnsley returns to the estate. While there, he dreams of Julia visiting him in the formal garden. In the dream, she instructs him to finish the estate for their children and future generations,” the timeline said.
The Italianate-style home was completed in 1848. It featured indoor plumbing and French and Italian marble.
The home was damaged by the occupation by Union troops during the Civil War and again in a 1906 tornado. But descendants of Barnsley lived in the home until 1942, after which it fell into disrepair. In 1988 the estate was purchased by Prince Hubertus Fugger of Bavaria. He expanded the garden to include 200 varieties of roses and preserved the remaining brick walls, all that was left of the manor. It became a resort in 1999.
A kitchen next to the manor still stands and serves as a museum filled with artifacts from the Barnsley family.
Each year, the resort decorates the ruins, including the exterior and mantles inside the walls, for Christmas. Anyone can tour the site, even those who aren’t staying at the resort.
My friend Cynthia and I went for a quick road trip two days before Christmas. We ate at the tavern in the Woodlands Grill then went to see the Barnsley family cemetery while it was still light. The gardens and ruins were beautiful and the museum was a fascinating look at how the family lived in the period during which the manor was built.
The lights remain up through Jan. 1, 2019. There is a fee for non-guests to tour.