Surrounded by friends and family, Dr. Bill Mitchell’s 90th birthday was commemorated Saturday in the farm house that was built by his grandfather in 1892. The occasion was also used to announce the formation of the Goldworth Farm Park nonprofit corporation, whose goal it is to bring forth the interpretive history of the farm house and surrounding outbuildings in the future.
According to Mitchell’s daughter, Pat DeWitt, the non-profit corporation was actually incorporated last year and she as treasurer of the group is working with federal officials on the application for federal non-profit status. It is hoped that status may come by the end of the year so the group can begin raising the necessary funds to bring their vision to life.
“First we’ve got to get the place fixed up so that it’s a little more presentable,” DeWitt said.
Board members have already fixed up the foyer and formal parlor for the home, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The plan is to not only fix up the house, but to make the outbuildings of the former dairy farm presentable as well.
“There’s a whole lot of work to do before we can really have very many people in,” DeWitt said. “We hope by this time next year we’ll be able to invite school groups out here. We also hope to invite civic groups. I think for the first few years we’ll have invited groups and guided tours instead of just opening it up to the general public and then we’ll see how it goes. Maybe eventually we can have some limited hours open to the general public, but the idea is to sort of move forward slowly after we get our non-profit status.”
Goldworth Farms sits on about 200 acres inside the Villa Rica city limits off of Highway 61 South. It has been in the Williams and Mitchell families for nearly 150 years.
Dr. Ann McCleary, director of the University of West Georgia Center for Public History, has been bringing her students to Goldworth farm for many years. In fact, several of her students have done thesis papers on the farm or some aspect of it, including Carla Ledgerwood, whose interpretative plan is being used as the basis for the park.
“It’s been a great resource for some of our students to work on this,” McCleary said. “We’ve had probably five or six students work on the farm, helping with this project. We are grateful to be helping out with the farm and we’re really excited that it has provided a good outlet for our students to learn about public history and teach them.”
Preserving the farm and turning it into a public park has long been a dream of Dr. Mitchell, who is also working with UWG to get the site of Civilian Conservation Corps camp on the property included on the National Register of Historic Places as well. Eventually, the plan is to include the CCC camp in the park with walking trails connecting the two sites with historical signage.
“It’s a great resource,” McCleary said. “There’s a lot of stories to tell.”
Mitchell has also been very instrumental in working with the city as part of its Historic Preservation Commission to set guidelines for preservation throughout the city. In fact, the Historic Preservation Commission presented Mitchell with a plaque Saturday in recognition of his preservation efforts.
“The great thing about this farm is that there were some unusual things here like running water and electricity in the 1920s,” said UWG graduate assistant Matt Harris. “So, the good thing is the house has some really great characteristics like that and Dr. Mitchell recognizes that. Very rarely do you find someone with an old family home place who doesn’t want to just turn it into the ‘Mitchell House’ and that’s the only story we’re telling. He is so far-sighted to the fact that what this needs to be is something that tells about West Georgia farming in the 1920s. That’s the heart of public history, to make it matter to people.”