HomeLifestyleSomething You Might Not Have Known: Ware's Folly

Something You Might Not Have Known: Ware’s Folly

Author

Date

The elaborate mansion at 506 Telfair St., which today houses the Gertrude Herbert Institute of Art, was once not considered to be stately work of art, but more like a white elephant and shortly after its construction was branded with the nickname of “Ware’s Folly.”

In Augusta’s post-revolution era, conservative society, Ware’s Folly was considered a symbol of excess. Even the former Georgia Governor and signer of the Declaration of Independence, George Walton, lived out his final years in a relatively modest home.

The home was built by, then, Augusta Mayor Nicholas Ware in 1818 and is the third oldest former residence in the city, beaten only by Meadow Gardens and The Ezekiel Harris House.

Ware was born in 1776, the same year Walton signed the Declaration. After studying medicine and law, Ware passed the bar and moved to Augusta to set up a law office.

Apparently, the young Ware also took to buying up large swaths of land on the outskirts of Augusta and ultimately ended with a large cotton plantation that stretched from Highland Avenue to North Leg/Sibley Road, according to the late Augusta Historian Erick Frazier.

[adrotate banner=”51″]


Ware also became one of the largest slave owners in the area with 62 slaves according to the 1810 census.

At the time, Augusta had moved far beyond its origins as a frontier outpost. The cotton and tobacco trades had exploded and Augusta was now being referred to as a “city.” When Ware arrived in town, Augusta already had the distinction of serving as the capital of Georgia for a decade before the government moved permanently to Atlanta.

It does not seem that Ware spent much time at his cotton plantation as he was more focused on law and politics. He was elected to the Georgia General Assembly and served from 1808 to 1811 and again in 1814 until 1815. In 1818, Ware ran for Mayor of Augusta and won.

It was during Ware’s mayoral administration that Augusta set about to build its first permanent Courthouse, and perhaps Ware reasoned that if Augusta would have a “Marble Palace,” that, as Mayor, he should have a palace of his own.

The Federalist and Charleston style creation he oversaw was nothing short of a palace.

Ware’s Folly is a visual masterpiece from the outside, rising four stories from the ground, containing three porticos and a double-winding staircase. Inside the home is no less impressive with intricate moldings, ornate fireplaces and a floating staircase that goes all the way up to the finished attic.

According to the late historian Ed Cashin, Ware supervised the building personally to suit his own “great taste.”

If Ware wished to inspire awe, he certainly succeeded. He also inspired a bit of derision as the price tag on the home was $40,000, almost a million dollars in today’s money. Living comfortably was expected of the elite, but extravagant shows of wealth were considered somewhat vulgar.

[adrotate banner=”15″]


Apparently, Ware’s Folly did not tarnish Ware’s reputation that much as he was appointed a U.S. Senator in 1821 where he would serve until his death in 1824 at the age of 48.

The home would go on to house several prominent families over the following years, with the Sibley and the Gardner families living in the mansion until it was bought by Olivia Herbert in 1937.

By the time Herbert acquired the property, it was showing signs of its age, but she must have been impressed with the so-called folly because she poured a ton of her own money into renovating the home and then donated it to the Augusta Art Club for use. Herbert made the donation in the name of her late daughter, Gertrude, and so the art club changed its name accordingly.

Over the past 80 years, the Gertrude Herbert Institute of Art has carried on its mission as an independent art school and exhibition space and its building, or Folly, is one of the most recognizable structures in Augusta to this day, which is just what Ware wanted.

…And that is something you might not have known

Scott Hudson is the senior reporter for The Augusta Press. Reach him at s[email protected] 

1 COMMENT

  1. James Gardner bought Ware’s Folly from the estate of Nicholas Ware. There, they reared their large number of children, as well as their orphaned grandchildren.

    The article refers to them as the Garner family. Probably just a typo.

Recent posts

Recent comments

Juliann McCraney on Column: Faith: Ups and downs
Robert Schloesser on Saga with Gold Cross EMS continues
Thomas Yarbrough on Garnett Johnson: In his own words
Tedd Antonacci on OPINION: Letter to the editor
Charmain Brackett on Reoccurring Members
Charmain Brackett on Short Getaways: Edisto Beach
Russell Smeak on Short Getaways: Edisto Beach
Trudy Edwards on Short Getaways: Edisto Beach
Gay Wright on Reoccurring Members
Russell Smeak on Short Getaways: Edisto Beach
Charmain Brackett on Short Getaways: Edisto Beach
Charmain Brackett on Short Getaways: Edisto Beach
Russell Smeak on Short Getaways: Edisto Beach
Thomas Plowden on Short Getaways: Edisto Beach
Charmain Brackett on Man struck by train Thursday
Thomas Yarbrough on Man struck by train Thursday
Tedd Antonacci on Man struck by train Thursday
Dennis Perry on FAITH: Our Only Hope
Robert Turbyfill on Column: Serene18 – take two
Leonard Zimmerman Jr on In The Kitchen With Vera: Oh Honey
Tedd Antonacci on Bomb threat suspect in custody
Frank Bush on FAITH: A Great Lady
Judy Wheeler on FAITH: A Great Lady
Robert Green on Kemp signs tax cut bill
Dan Barnett on FAITH: The Turtle
William Speer on Whither Ukraine?
Sherri Jones Rivers on FAITH: The Turtle
Judy Wheeler on FAITH: The Turtle
Doug Herman on Whither Ukraine?
Phillip Williams on Column: Electing judges
John Mulherin on Column: Electing judges
Sarah Scott on Column: Electing judges
Thomas Yarbrough on XPR Augusta Concerts Canceled
Bill Lesshafft on XPR Augusta Concerts Canceled
Amanda Main on FAITH: The Covid Effect
Tedd Antonacci on XPR Augusta Concerts Canceled
Rev. Bill Harrell on FAITH: The Covid Effect
Jackie VOSS on FAITH: The Covid Effect
Penny Danner on FAITH: The Covid Effect
Rabbi David Sirull on FAITH: The Covid Effect
Elizabeth Ristroph on Michael Meyers: The Law Allows It
Phillip Williams on Michael Meyers: The Law Allows It