|Martha Berry when presented at the Court of St. James. Photo © Debi Lander.|
That her older sister became a globe-trotting, art-collecting Italian princess didn't hurt. You wouldn't expect less of the offspring of Thomas Berry who had been a lieutenant in the Mexican War, a Forty-niner in the California gold rush, married the daughter Alabama's richest man and was a captain in the Confederacy, after which he moved the family from Alabama to Rome to become a plantation owner and partner in a wholesale grocery and cotton brokerage.
Their home Oak Hill was filled with children, eight of their own plus the three orphaned by Mrs. Berry's younger sister's death.
Berry College and its wealthy supporters
|Boys Industrial School|
|Berry College today. Photo © by Judy Wells.|
The Berry children had been reared as American aristocrats; their parents' wealthy northern friends would make annual visits to Rome and Oak Hill so they grew up with the country's elite.
Contacts Martha made good use of with a college to support. Henry Ford donated several buildings and President Theodore Roosevelt put the school on the national educational map when he visited in 1910. Presidents Harding and F.D. Roosevelt were also "collected" by Martha whose good friend Emily Vanderbilt Hammond visited at least annually through 1963 when she was 92.
|Martha's desk. Photo © by Judy Wells.|
|Martha at her desk. Photo © Debi Lander.|
|Berry College. Photo © by Judy Wells.|
It's well worth the drive through to catch glimpses of the 20 miles of walking trails and the vistas across the Appalachian foot hills between hardwoods and the long leaf pines Martha was instrumental in reintroducing. Wild turkeys are about as flighty as backyard chickens and the deer all but ask for treats. A fairly recent tornado took out 5,000 trees but you'd never know it.
|The Old Mill. Photo © Debi Lander.|
|Oak Hill. Photo by Judy Wells.|
|The elevator. Photo © by Judy Wells.|
|Dining room. Photo © by Judy Wells.|
|Martha's favorite room; coverlet made by her mother. Photo © by Judy Wells.|
There is a portrait of Martha's African-American servant, Aunt Martha Freeman, supposedly the only person who could tell Martha what to do.
|Princess Eugenia. Photo © Debi Lander.|
|Federalist mirror. Photo © by Judy Wells.|
|Bridal Walk, where Martha invited just married Berry students to make a wish at the wishing well in the gazebo. Photos © Debi Lander.|
|Garden photos © by Debi Lander.|
|Martha liked spires. Photo © by Judy Wells.|
"Martha liked spires," he explained.
|Martha's cars. Photo © Debi Lander.|
|Photo © Debi Lander.|
|Frieseke portrait. Photo © Debi Lander.|
Don't miss the art. There are some excellent Italian pieces and American portraits, plus Impressionist Frederick Carl Frieseke's painting of his daughter.
|Some of Princess Eugenia's furniture. Photo by Judy Wells.|
|Oak Hill from the back. Photo © Debi Lander.|