The Tarva home and grounds are truly exceptional in history, beauty, and architecture. One bad decision by a previous owner over the past 172 years could have ruined this heirloom, but under their careful stewardship, only the best consultants were retained to make small but significant improvements over the years, mainly to preserve and modernize the house.
Historic Main House
The 7,300± square foot Greek Revival raised cottage was built as a wedding gift for Henry A. and Elizabeth Tarver from Henry’s father in 1850. The house is architecturally timeless, greatly intact, and has recently undergone upgrades.
The house is one-story with front and side porticos and features two 24-foot square parlors at the front of the house, formal dining room, three bedrooms with three full and two half baths, chef’s kitchen, and breakfast room.
A unique design feature of the house is the two 16-foot-wide center hallways laid out in a Greek cross plan, each end opening up to porches. The hall on the west wing of this east-to-west portion of the corridor creates a veranda that has now been glassed in and overlooks a magnificent live oak and a brick courtyard. The symmetry and scale of the house is visually appealing and done so effortlessly—from the 16-foot ceilings to the triple-hung veranda windows.
Some of the finest architects of their time have been enlisted over the years for restorations. In the 1940s, Russell A. Alger, Jr. recruited local Edward Vason Jones, well-known for interior restoration designs of the White House. He helped to enclose the veranda and connect the detached kitchen. Later, Mary Hunter enlisted Frank McCall to help with the kitchen design and, most recently, Atlanta’s Spitzmiller and Norris oversaw updates to the house and supporting improvements.
Main House Gallery
Guest Cabin & Guest House
Tucked alongside the main house and facing the bricked courtyard is a two-bedroom, two-bathroom guest cabin, approximately 650± square feet.
A three-bedroom guest house is a short walk from the main house with a full kitchen and two baths and is 1,315± square feet.
Additional improvements include a garage behind the main house and a modest four-stall horse stable with half bath and kitchen area, wagon room, tack room, hay storage, and nearby fire pit. There is also a four-bedroom manager’s house, a three-bedroom assistant manager’s house, a two-bedroom guest house, seven small concrete block tenant houses (only one is occupied), a farm shop, new grain bins, and equipment barn.
Additional Improvements Gallery
For hundreds of years, the lands at and around Tarva have been sought-after. First, by Creek Indians who came for the water resources and highly productive soils, then by American settlers in the early 1800s.
Tarva was originally established as a working farm by Henry Hartwell Tarver in 1836 and at that time was named “Buzzard Roost.” It is said that Tarver came to the area with Nelson Tift that year to establish the trading station that started the town of Albany.
Tarva and its sister plantation, Pinebloom, were wedding gifts from Henry Hartwell respectively to his son, Henry Andrew, and daughter, Dorothy. Dorothy was married to Alfred Holt Colquitt, the 49th Governor of Georgia and two-term U.S. Senator.
For years, Henry ran the operations at Tarva, and in 1870, he moved his family to Atlanta and served one term in the Georgia State Legislature. They stayed in Atlanta, using Tarva seasonally until Henry’s death in 1897. The property passed to Henry A., Jr., who continued to use the property seasonally, serving as mayor of Albany for three terms.
After Henry Jr.’s death in 1935, his brother Fort Tarver took ownership of the property and eventually sold to Russell A. Alger of Michigan in 1940. The Algers were a prominent family in Michigan; Alger’s grandfather served as its governor, was the Secretary of War under McKinley, and was a U.S. Senator. His father was an investor in the Packard Motor Car Company. Alger reassembled the property through several purchases in the 1940s, amounting to about 4,500 acres. He named the property “Placida” and restored the main house under the guidance of Edward Vason Jones, an esteemed local architect who was well-known for completing three interior restoration designs for the White House over a period of three presidencies.
In 1947, Don and Mary Hunter of Cleveland purchased the property. Mary was the granddaughter of Howard Melville Hanna, an early member of the Standard Oil Trust who owned Pebble Hill and Melrose Plantations in Thomasville. They, and their daughter, Barbara, were passionate horse breeders with a farm in Kentucky and a ranch in Montana.
A testament to the quality and timeless design of the house, as well as the restrain of the architects, nothing drastic was done to renovate the house aside from enclosing the veranda, connecting the kitchen to the rest of the main house, and re-doing the north and south steps. Mary continued to work with Jones and brought in Frank McCall of Moultrie to redesign the kitchen. She renamed the property “Tarva,” a better reflection to her of what it sounded like when the locals pronounced Tarver.
Tarva is 4,515± acres. The majority of the upland area is managed for quail. It features dozens of unique cypress ponds, ranging in size between one and over 125 acres. Tarva’s eastern property line is the Cooleewahee Creek, a tributary to the Flint River, and shared with Nilo. These water features are rare ecotonal treasures for wildlife habitat and offer a greatly-untouched recharge into the Floridan aquafer. Like many other properties in the area, Tarva is protected from development by a conservation easement.
Based upon recent years, the annual property taxes for Tarva are estimated at $37,000.