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Life on a Shooting Plantation
A Gilded Age Adventure for the Powerful and Prominent

Setting the Stage - Part 1

Hanna Home in Cleveland

It all began in the great cities of America’s Northeast and Midwest during the winters of the late 1870s, when temperatures plunged toward zero and the massive industrial towns found themselves blanketed in snow. Pictured is the H. M. Hanna home on Lakeshore Blvd in Cleveland, Ohio.

train travel

Railroads took those who could afford the fare away to the warm and balmy climes of Southern Georgia. Many rode all the way to the end of the line; the end of the line was the lovely, gracious small town of Thomasville.

Piney Woods Hotel

It didn’t take long for the cash-strapped, post-reconstruction locals to realize that tourist business could be big business. Two large luxury hotels were built. The Piney Woods faced the railroad line with a siding where private coaches waited to take their owners home at the end of the season.

The spacious Piney Woods was built in the late nineteenth century’s popular and trendy Queen Anne Victorian style.

Piney Woods interior

What could speak more to elegance at that time than Oriental carpets and potted palms?

Piney Woods Hotel

Guests listed in the Social Register mixed with old friends, neighbors, and other well-known people from across the country.


Equal to the Piney Woods as a gracious resort hotel was the Mitchell House. Seen here is the 1886 rebuild which replaced an earlier building destroyed by fire in 1882.

Masury & Brighton

Smaller hotels, boarding houses, single rooms or whole private homes for rent provided accommodation for travelers of differing means.

menu-Piney Woods Hotel

What did this huge influx of visitors enjoy doing? That old favorite, fine dining, was on the top on many lists.

invitation and ball photo

The Piney Woods and the Mitchell House provided fancy dress balls during the season.

Thomasville's Broad St.

Broad Street, Thomasville's main street, provided merchandise for even the most discriminating shoppers.

fox in pine tree

Many northern physicians touted the medicinal powers of the areas clean, fresh, pine-scented air;  and while photographing a lovely pine, you might also photograph the “fox that got away."

Glen Arven Pleasure Park gate

In 1888, Glen Arven Pleasure Park opened on the outskirts of Thomasville. Carriage trails were cut through the beautiful natural setting and animals of many types were fenced in to add visual excitement for vacationers driving slowly along the trails. The Adirondack style gates tied this Georgia attraction to others more familiar to guests from the North.


Sports, sportsmen and sportswomen all found homes in Thomasville. In 1885 Tennis was introduced; by 1889 the Piney Woods hosted the area’s first tennis tournament. Baseball was played the in 1870s; the Gun Club organized in the 1880s.

  • 1894 the Baseball Association was formed
  • 1893 the Bicycle Club
  • 1896 the Ladies Cycling Club

golf at Glen Arven

Several holes for golf were built at Live Oak Plantation in the early 1890s. The Glen Arven Pleasure Park was purchased in 1892 and transformed into the private Glen Arven Country Club, which boasted of seven holes.

horseback riding in woods

Horse related activities were certainly popular.

hunt wagon

Bird hunting in the southern style, accompanied by mule drawn hunt wagon, developed into a precise science with an intricate social etiquette.


Whether riding for pleasure or riding to hunt, riding is best when accompanied by a picnic. Picnicking developed into an elaborate social occasion. Picnics included cooks, butlers, china and silver packed in special picnic kits, fine food, and fine wine.


A day trip might be planned to that smaller town south of Thomasville - Tallahassee, Florida.

Those coming to Thomasville for the season in the late nineteenth century were generally witty, urbane, fun-loving and most were experienced sportsmen. Some of these Northern vacationers stayed. They bought the area’s old cotton plantations, which were suffering from the financial stagnation of reconstruction. The prominent and powerful new owners brought Thomasville’s hotel era lifestyle to the plantations. The great nineteenth century agricultural estates became the shooting plantations of the twentieth century.


This is the first of a three part series. Part 2 is now available by clicking here.

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