The ‘House’ that Fanny Built
Renovations to Goodwood bring a blast from the past – with modern conveniencesThe ‘House’ that Fanny BuiltGoodwood’s New Conference Center Replicates the Past for Today’s Gatherings
By Jason Dehart
Marked by a 23-year absence, Goodwood Plantation’s glorious old carriage house has been brought back to life. But instead of accommodating horses and riding gear, the new carriage house will be a focal point for social events and programs at Goodwood Museum & Gardens.
“We’re very excited about it, and it’s such an incredible replica of the building that was there,” says Larry Paarlberg, executive director of Goodwood Museum & Gardens.
“It’s a little bit larger, but the flavor and feeling is absolutely the same.”
The original barn and horse stables were built in 1911 at the command of Goodwood’s resident wealthy widow, Fanny Tiers, who had an estate called Farmlands in Morris County, N.J. Tiers bought Goodwood in 1911 from Ellen Arrowsmith, another widow who had lived there for 25 years.
Tiers came to Goodwood at a time in history when electricity was lighting up the world, and indoor plumbing was all the rage. She immediately set about making renovations to the old mansion to bring it into the 20th century.
“Fanny Tiers is one of our favorite owners,” Paarlberg says. “She brought electricity and indoor plumbing to the property along with the carriage house.”
Tiers was “born in money,” Paarlberg says, but she married well, too.
Her husband, Alexander, made a lot of money on Wall Street in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
“He started out as a coffee importer and then invested in Wall Street and made a big fortune with a sulfur mine that he owned in Louisiana,” Paarlberg says.
Alexander Tiers died of a stroke in 1910 in Morristown, N.J., the same year that Fanny bought Goodwood Plantation. Although she came down just for the quail season in the winter, she made landmark renovations and additions to the place.
“She would come down a week before Thanksgiving and stay into early March, and she not only built the carriage house but did a massive renovation of the main house, added the Jubilee Cottage, swimming pool, roller rink and the Rough House, where the café is today,” Paarlberg says.
As befitting a woman of wealth, Tiers had to have the latest technology at her new seasonal residence. She not only added indoor plumbing and electric lights, but at some point in her ownership she traded in horses for newfangled automobiles.
“Horse-drawn carriages were kept at the old wood shed, but by 1912 to 1913, she was so wealthy she tended to bring a lot of automobiles with her,” Paarlberg says. “She would put them on a train and bring them down to Thomasville and they would motor down from there, we assume. I do think that into the 1920s she may have left the cars here, or had them serviced at Proctor’s Cadillac downtown. We think there was a relationship with the Proctors.”
That’s not the only local connection she made. Even though Tiers was a seasonal resident, she had ties to some of Tallahassee’s most notable families. She was related by marriage to the Fleischmann family, who owned Waverly Plantation next door. The Fleischmann family was in turn connected by marriage to the wealthy Maclay family via the marriage of Louise Fleischmann and New York financier Alfred Maclay. Outside Tallahassee, her connections were just as impressive. She knew everybody who was anybody in early 20th-century America, such as the Vanderbilts and Astors.
“She loved music, adored opera and classical music, and was friends with Chrysler and Caruso and other classical entertainers of the day,” Paarlberg says. “She loved the Paris opera and had a house in Paris near the opera. She was a pleasant person but very formal. The image we have of her indicates she had a fairly formal presence.”
Fanny Tiers owned Goodwood until 1925, when she sold it to Sen. William C. Hodges. Tiers passed away in 1928, at the age of 60.
What’s Old is New Again
The carriage house that Tiers built was a spacious barn, with a clock tower and horse stables in wings off either side. It had expansive brick terraces and a fountain in the center of the front courtyard. The building was “a little dilapidated” and being used for storage when Hurricane Kate blew through in 1985, according to Paarlberg, and two-thirds of the building, including the clock tower, were demolished during the storm. “We used the remaining standing structure for almost 22 years after that,” he says. “We took it down when we started construction of the new building last summer.”
Paarlberg says rebuilding the carriage house will not only complete the look of the grounds, but will also provide a much-needed social venue.
“We decided not to rebuild it as a carriage house for horses and buggies and stables, but as a meeting and assembly space,” he says. “It was really not only good for Goodwood, but the community.”
A variety of programs are held at Goodwood. Approximately 36,000 people visit the site annually, and Paarlberg says they have as many as 260 bookings a year – but there is limited indoor space, forcing most large events outdoors.
“One of the issues we’ve faced is that the largest building we have only seats about 50 people,” he says. “And if you want to do something larger than that, then you’re probably outside – and then cross your fingers.
“In talking to the business community, civic leaders and our friends and members, one of the things that became clear was that we would like to use Goodwood 12 months out of the year for bookings,” Paarlberg says. And in talking to people throughout the community, one thing became very clear: the need for more conference space.
“It was a high priority,” he says. “So we started several years ago raising private dollars to help … put this building in service. We’re very excited about it. It’s such an incredible replica of the building that was there – a little bit larger, but the flavor and feeling is absolutely the same.”
Paarlberg says the new carriage house construction cost around $2.5 million, all paid for by private donors. Cosmetically, the new structure looks very similar to the old one – even some of the original terrace bricks will be used in the new terraces – and it will have a clock tower and fountain. But that’s where the similarity ends. Inside, a 4,200-square-foot assembly room will seat 300 in air-conditioned comfort. In the “stables” outside will be 13 restrooms, flanking an all-new brick terrace. Back inside, there will be a warming kitchen, custom-built hospitality stations for check-ins, a bridal preparation suite, a state-of-the-art audio system and wireless Internet canopy, and more.
Paarlberg says just having more restrooms will make a difference for one program in particular.
“We do a program for school kids in the early spring, called Blended Lives, and we have about 2,400 fourth-graders out here and two bathrooms. It’s always been an issue,” he says.
Paarlberg says the new conference center will be just the ticket for antique shows, business retreats, religious and educational events, school programs, horticultural events, seasonal activities, weddings and receptions. And air conditioning will make all the difference in the world when it comes to using the grounds year-round.
“We’ve never had the ability to have great usage during the summer because nothing is air-conditioned,” he says. “This will give us that capability. One of the things that came up last year is we were contacted by two agencies that wanted to bring conferences to Tallahassee that could not find a site that suited them. One went to Orlando, one went to Miami. So we’re hoping that in the community at large we will be able to also provide some opportunity. We’re looking at really having an economic impact beyond what it does for Goodwood.”
Paarlberg said the new facility will officially open in October and is already being booked.
“We are booking a number of holiday parties right now,” he said. “We’d love to see more bookings in October and November, but December is getting full.”
To rent the new carriage house, or any of the other facilities at Goodwood, visit goodwoodmuseum.org or call (850) 877-4202.