The grove of Live Oaks (Quercus virginiana) marking the entrance to Hofwyl House and its dependencies at Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation is one of the great natural public spaces on the Georgia coast.
While the structures are a significant resource, the real attraction for many are the oaks located all over the property. Individually, the trees are objects of awe and wonder; collectively, they’re a natural cathedral.
As is common with many Live Oaks on the coast, some specimens appear to have been uprooted.
These giants are miraculous in their curious ability to grow this way, often living and prospering for centuries.
Spanish Moss is the natural ornament most associated with the Live Oak, and it’s especially abundant here.
There’s also lots of Resurrection Fern (Pleopeltis polypodioides).
Some of these trees are estimated to be between 500-800 years old.
In 1806, Charleston merchant William Brailsford purchased the “Broadface” property on the Altamaha River between Darien and Brunswick and developed one of the most prosperous rice plantations in 19th-century Georgia.
He renamed it Broadfield. Upon his death, it passed to his son-in-law Dr. James M. Troup, brother of Governor George Troup. When Dr. Troup died in 1849 Broadfield included 7300 acres and a community of 357 slaves. The marshes are very similar in appearance today to what they were in the early 19th-century.
These tabby ruins are all that remain of the once-thriving Broadfield rice mill.
Around 1851, Troup’s daughter, Ophelia, and her husband George Dent built the plantation house still standing today.
They christened it Hofwyl House, after a school Dent attended in Switzerland.
After the Civil War, mounting taxes led to the selling of most of the original lands and by the 1880s when George & Ophelia’s son James took over management of the plantation, Broadfield’s dominance was over.
Rice was cultivated until 1913, but without slaves to provide an essentially free labor force, it was hardly a profitable venture.
When James died in 1913, his son Gratz established a dairy on the site, which was operated until 1942 by his sisters Miriam and Ophelia Dent.
When Ophelia died in 1973, she left the house and grounds to the state of Georgia, who operate it today as a state historic site.
Unlike most historic homes, Hofwyl House retains the original family antiques and possessions of the Brailsford, Troup and Dent families from five generations.
The bedrooms are on the second floor.
Dependencies are the barns, outbuildings, laborer dwellings, and other structures dependent upon and integral to the operations of farm or plantation. One of the most remarkable aspects of this property is the large number that survive.
Gratz Dent’s dairy was a very modern operation for its time. The open-air dairy barn is where a herd of around 35 Jersey and Guernsey cows were milked daily.
Just next door is the bottling house.
Milk was produced here for customers in Glynn and McIntosh counties.
Central to any plantation operation was the commissary, where laborers were given credit for necessities and staples. Much of their income, however, went to repaying debts incurred here.
Essential laborers were provided a basic tenant house like the one seen above.
Furnishings were spartan and utilitarian.
The presence of the pay shed indicates a well-managed property and is quite a rare thing to find today.