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Posted: November 3, 2012 5:47 p.m.

History opens its doors

Historic downtown home becomes available to the public

Rachel Goff/

Nicole Greer stands in front of her historic The Twelve Oaks home, formally known as Whitehall. Greer, along with her fiancé John Munn, have been renovating the home for more than a year.

The home formerly known as Whitehall, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, will now serve as a bed and breakfast and event facility in Covington.

Whitehall, now named The Twelve Oaks, is owned by Nicole Greer, who purchased the home out of foreclosure in November 2011.

Greer said Judge John Harris built the home in 1836 as his townhouse before Atlanta was established as a town. According to information from The Twelve Oaks website, Harris owned a large plantation near Covington that was pilfered by federal troops in 1864 when they were beginning Sherman's march to the Sea.

After the Civil War and the property exchanging owners, Robert Franklin Wright bought the home, which then sat on 11 acres, for $1,000 dollars. Robert and his wife Salina named the house The Cedars. They refurbished the interior and added a boxwood garden to the rear of the mansion.

Greer said in 1903 the home was sold to Nathanial S. Turner. Turner was a cotton broker who owned Covington Mills. The home eventually acquired the name Whitehall. Turner added the third floor with the dormer windows, an expanded colonnade and a second-floor to the home.
Greer said when she purchased the home last year, it was vacant for a few years and had not been kept up for a while. She said there was a large amount of damage on the house and she and her fiancé John Munn, worked to repair and renovate the home.

"When I bought it, there were 19 windows busted out and some significant damage, including water damage," Greer said. "We've done extensive renovations on it to turn it into a bed and breakfast. We had a lot of code requirements that we had to do as well."

"We're a small business and the renovations were very expensive. When you renovate a 175-year-old house, everything you start doing opens up a can of worms. You've got to add a pipe here and then you realize all of the original plumbing is bad and you have to redo all the pipes. So about 90 to 95 percent of the plumbing and electrical are new," she said.

The Twelve Oaks opened its doors as a bed and breakfast facility on Oct. 17. Greer said they have already received great reviews from their guests who have stayed in the antebellum home.

"We were booked our first weekend and then we were booked another night a few nights ago. We have had a lot of people checking in and checking out. We're doing really good for being open for a week and a half," she said.

She added that she visited antique auctions and estate sales to purchase unique items to furnish the home. The house includes a variety of unique features including coal-burning fireplaces operated with remote controls, pocket doors, some of the original flooring and even a "needle shower" in one of the guest rooms.

The 10,000 square foot home has four rooms available for stay and an additional four guest rooms that are currently under construction. Greer said they are also working to make the attic easily accessible so that guests can see a view of Covington from the highest point of the house.

As far as the house being rumored as haunted, Greer said she didn't believe it was, but she has heard several stories. She said former supermodel Cindy Crawford filmed a Rooms To Go commercial in the house and one of the security guards who looked after the house during filming believed the home was haunted.

"He said he went through and he was the only person here and the house was completely quite and locked up," she said. "He was going through the house to make sure that everything was secure and the sound system came on and scared him half to death."
"I've stayed here by myself and I don't think it's haunted," Greer said.

In addition to the home being used for filming the Rooms To Go commercial, it has also been used to film episodes of the TV series "The Vampire Diaries" and "In the Heat of The Night." Greer said the home has also been considered for filming projects actors Billy Bob Thornton and Arnold Schwarzenegger are working currently on.

With so many ties to the entertainment industry, the guest rooms have been named specifically after certain films and TV shows. The names of those rooms include: the Salvator Brothers Study, the Frankly Scarlett Suite, the In the Heat of the Night Suite and the Katherine's Mirror Image Suite.

Greer said they plan on eventually opening the home up for tours for the community as well as hosting weddings, bridal parties and executive retreats.

"We really just want it to be a blessing to the community and hopefully it will do well," she said.

A stay at The Twelve Oaks ranges from $159 to $299 a night. Greer said included with everyone's stay is a full Southern breakfast and wine and hors d'oeuvres in the afternoon. Reservations can be made a day in advanced by visiting http://www.thetwelveoaks.com/ or calling (770) 385-4005.

 

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