The Lumpkin House
Wilson Lumpkin, Georgia’ 35th president, was an early transplant to the Athens area, who made a tremendous impact on local, state and national affairs, and left a rare gift to UGA.
A young Lumpkin moved from Virginia to Oglethorpe County with his family in 1784. They settled near Lexington, Ga., where he later taught school, farmed and studied law. He was admitted to the bar in and later practiced law in Athens.
Lumpkin served several terms in Congress and was appointed to State Indian Commissioner by President Andrew Jackson. In that role, he led the expulsion of 12,000 Native Americans to the West from Georgia. He died in 1870 and was buried in Oconee Hill Cemetary, which remains today near Sanford Stadium in Athens.
Before he died, Lumpkin built a house south of the UGA campus that became his permanent residence after he left government in 1835. He served as his own architect, but his plans were implemented by a group of skilled artisans: Edward Lilly of Ireland, mason; C.S. Oliver of England, painter; Mr. Williams of New York, plasterer; and David Demorest of New Jersey, carpenter. The house contained 12 rooms with fireplaces, a cellar, pantry and five large closets.
The 2-foot-thick walls were built of stones dressed to fit together like bricks. The structure is referred to today as “The Lumpkin House” or “Rock House.” It has been used for a variety of purposes throughout the years, but today it houses office space for the University Extension Service of the College of Agriculture.
After his death in 1870, Lumpkin’s youngest child, Martha Wilson Lumpkin, lived in the home. She married at 51 and gradually sold portions of the plantation as Athens and the University grew. Eventually, she reluctantly sold the house and the few remaining acres to UGA. The deed stipulated that the property revert to her heirs if the house were ever removed or destroyed manually.
About the home, Lumpkin one wrote, “I procured me a delightful situation, in the margin of the town, in full view of the State University, together with six or seven hundred acres of good, productive land, finely timbered and watered, bounded on one side by the Oconee River. My goal was to make this my permanent home and live by the cultivation of the land.”
Today, Lumpkin House remains on Cedar Street as a rare historical gem almost completely hidden by massive Conner Hall. It is a lasting memory of Wilson Lumpkin, who says he endeavored to put a piece of his real character into each of the stones.