Spring Villa Park

 

Spring Villa Park

Selected as a landmark contributing to a deeper understanding of our American Heritage, Spring Villa was placed on the National Register of Historic Places by the United States Department of the Interior on January 3, 1978.

 

1474 Lee Road 148
Opelika, Alabama 36804
334-705-5552

Manager: Jeff Pokorney

Spring Villa is a 350 acre park with an antebellum house, outdoor volley-ball courts, horseshoe pit, campground with hookups for 30 spaces, campground lodge suitable for gatherings, walking trails, day camp compound, restrooms, outside band stand, nature trails, open play area, picnic tables and grills among the wooded areas, picnic shelters, and the caretakers home.

The Spring Villa Campground

   

 

The Spring Villa Lodge, located across the street from the Penn Yonge house is available for group rental. The interior of the lodge offers front deck with picnic tables,central air and heat, a common room with tables and chairs, restrooms, stove and refrigerator. Adjacent to the lodge is a large shelter with restrooms.  For Directions, click here.

  

Known History of the Penn Yonge House
Submitted by the Southern Paranormal Researchers

Home originally used by Penn & Mary Yonge. It was built by Horace King, a freed part African/part Catawba Indian slave who once belonged to John Godwin, Mary Godwin Yonge’s father. Mr. King was one of the most famous bridge builders in the South. King’s fame led him to being contracted to build several famous buildings in Alabama, including the Bryce Insane Asylum in Tuscaloosa in 1860 as well as the current Alabama State Capital building in 1850. When Mr. Godwin died in 1859, Mr. King was given his freedom by the Godwin children, but he continued to look after them as his own children, thus his reason for building the house for Penn and Mary. 
As for Penn Yonge, his father, Arthur, came over from Great Britain (possibly Ireland) around 1812. He moved first to the West Indies, then to Florida, and finally to Georgia where Penn was born. Penn’s father died when he was 12. He received no inheritance, so had to make his own way in the world from that moment on. He wedded Miss Mary Anne Godwin, of Girard, Alabama, the wedding being celebrated about 1846. Mr. Yonge was living at Girard at that time, being engaged in merchandising there. In 1849 he went to California, spending eighteen months in that state, during which time he traveled extensively over the gold fields and was reasonably successful in his search for the precious metal. In 1851 he returned to Alabama with the intention of going again to California but while in Columbus, Georgia, he was shown a piece of raw limestone. His attention was thus called to the fact that there was valuable limestone in Russell County in eastern Alabama from which good lime was being made on a small scale. He became interested in the matter and after investigation organized what was known as the Chewacla Lime Works. Mr. Yonge was actively in charge of the enterprise as superintendent. The company was chartered under the laws of Alabama with a capital stock of one thousand dollars and he successfully conducted the business until 1872 or 1873. During the Civil War he manufactured the large amount of lime that was used in fortifications for the Confederacy. He also owned what was known as Spring Villa in Lee County near the Chewalca Lime Works, where he maintained his home. This was known as the finest country home in that part of the south because of its proximity to the lakes, its beautiful flowers and splendid orchards. William Penn Chandler Yonge was a man of excellent financial ability and keen business insight as was manifest in his capable control of the lime works, but he spent much of his money in lavish entertainment at his country home and died in 1879 in limited financial circumstances. The date of his death is not in question, though the method is. SPR was not able to confirm through any official records the manner of Yonge’s death, but legend says that a servant hid in a cubby hole which is located on the stairway of Spring Villa. Mr. Yonge was supposedly stabbed to death on the 13th step of his home then beheaded. Various reports say that Mr. Yonge was a rather cruel, hard boss and thus the reason for the murder. Some legends say that it was a slave which killed Mr. Yonge for various reasons, including the slave’s family being sold, but obviously this is a mythical portion of the legend as slavery ended with the Civil War some 14 years before Yonge’s death.

 

He was small of stature, weighing perhaps one hundred and twenty to one hundred and twenty-five pounds and his educational privileges were extremely limited, for owing to his father’s death he has to rely upon his own resources from an early age. He did not have the opportunity for an education that other members of the family enjoyed, yet he gave people the impression of being a well educated man, possessing a Chesterfield manner. His knowledge had been acquired through reading, observation and experience and was largely supplemented by a natural adaptability. He was of an impulsive nature, generous in the use of his money, and entertained his friends and gave freely to every enterprise that promised to be of benefit to the community at large.

 

Mr. Yonge’s grave is on the side of a hill about ˝ a mile from the house. SPR was quite curious as to the location of the burial, but The Columbus (Georgia) Enquirer said, “All that remains of John Godwin are the shade trees around the place where his beautiful home was long since been burned and the lonely graves on the little hill top to half a mile distant that mark the spot where he and the greater number of the members of the family lie buried. On a tombstone are engraven these words, ‘John Godwin, born October 17, 1798, died February 26, 1859. This stone was placed here by Horace King in lasting remembrance of the love and gratitude he felt for his lost friend and former master.’” This Masonic tombstone (King was also a Mason) was in Girard, Alabama, one mile west of Columbus, Georgia.

 

As for the Spring Villa house itself, this former Southern plantation listed on the National Historic Register dates back to 1850 and was built on land featuring a clear 30-acre spring-fed lake. Mr. Yonge had a glass-bottom boat he used to take his guests out onto the lake and to a private island in the middle of the lake. In the 1930s a new building was built next to Spring Villa using the same architectural design. The downstairs was a kitchen area while the upstairs was for guests. The upstairs was only accessible by a breezeway that went from the second floor of Spring Villa over to the new building. The breezeway has been torn down due to rotting, so the upstairs of the new building is now only accessible via a ladder. Another house for caretakers of the land also used to sit in front of Spring Villa but has now been torn down.