Saturday, September 19, 2009

Sweetwater Plantation: The Rumor Mill Grinds it Out

Photograph from Library of Congress

Sweetwater Plantation lies on the eastern border of Florence, deserted and dilapidated. Susan Leigh Smithson of Atlanta currently owns the property, but may, or may not, be willing to part with the historical gem for a mere six million dollars. So far Smithson has refused interviews with local media--a practice that has left her actions open to both speculation and what can only be termed nasty gossip.

At some point in the 1980s, the plantation was placed on the market for $400,000.00. After no serious buyers came forward, the property was withdrawn, only to be relisted in 2006. Since 2006, 12 acres of the original 22 have been sold to the Holiday Inn group for a new motel complex to front Florence Boulevard. Now, in 2009, the asking price for the eight room plantation house and 10 remaining acres is still six million, causing some to question just how serious Smithson is in her attempts to sell the estate, currently listed with Cypress Realty Group.

This past week rumors began to circulate that Smithson is planning to open the home for tours to commence in October. The plantation house was completed by former Alabama governor Robert M. Patton in 1835 and is widely reported to be haunted by Patton's son Billy, a Civil War casualty, as well as others who have resided in the mansion over the years.

Smithson is said to have removed any remaining furniture from the home where renovations are in progress. Locals who have toured the home in the past few months doubt the edifice will be ready for the Halloween tourism that has boomed in the Shoals in recent years. Others aver the home will be presentable, with local volunteers acting as guides and portraying various historical characters associated with the Patton family.

While we fervently believe in historic preservation, recruiting volunteers to turn the plantation home into a money-maker for owner Smithson seems something more akin to the actions of a yam dankee than the southern aristocracy.

What's up with this: Apparently an excellent video on Sweetwater Plantation has been removed from YouTube. Yep, removing quality videos about the Shoals is certainly one way to keep those tourist dollars out of the area.