180 Years of Goodwood
Goodwood’s story parallels the history of North Florida. This landscape on the hills between the Ochlockonee and Aucilla Rivers has always been defined by its fertile soil and mild climate. Initially the homeland of the Apalachee and other Native American groups, the land drew Spanish explorers and later Euro-American settlers who would eventually displace the native peoples. In 1825, the United States granted the Marquis De Lafayette an approximately 36 square mile area in what was then called “Middle Florida” for his help during the American Revolution. Lafayette never visited this land, and over the years it was sold, mostly to ambitious planters migrating from Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia.
In 1834, the Croom family of North Carolina, wealthy tobacco planters, purchased 2,400 acres of Lafayette’s original land grant. The Crooms and the 60 enslaved people they brought with them, began creating a vast cotton and corn plantation. The enslaved laborers cleared the land, dug wells, erected cisterns, cared for livestock, and grew crops. They also built the four antebellum buildings that still stand on the property. The Croom family’s 20 year ownership ended with their deaths in a shipwreck and a subsequent court battle that resulted in the sale of the property and the enslaved people who worked it.
In 1857, Goodwood was purchased by merchant Arvah Hopkins who came from New York and became a member of Tallahassee’s elite power structure. He married Susan Branch who was the daughter of Florida’s last Territorial Governor and related to many other planation owning families in the region. The Hopkins grew the property to 8,000 acres of non-contiguous land and enslaved over 200 people. Few particulars of the lives of the enslaved were recorded, and the exact location of their dwellings and burials is not known. Some records exist, and efforts document this history continues.
Fortunes shifted following the Civil War. The Hopkins suffered economic losses, while the newly emancipated workforce faced opportunities and challenges within the changing social order. For a time, the plantation remained active as many formerly enslaved people worked the land as sharecroppers or tenant farmers.
After the death of her husband, in 1885, Mrs. Hopkins sold Goodwood to an Englishman, Dr. William Lamb Arrowsmith, and his wife Elizabeth. Dr. Arrowsmith died within months of his relocation to Florida, but Elizabeth remained on the estate for 25 years. During this time, the landholdings shrunk to 167 acres.
In 1911, Mrs. Arrowsmith sold Goodwood to another wealthy widow, Mrs. Alexander Tiers, also known as Fanny. Fanny was among many wealth northeasterners that discovered Florida’s opportunities for health, recreation, and a respite from winter. Although she only spent the winter season at Goodwood, Fanny accomplished an expansive renovation of the estate. Importantly, Fanny transformed Goodwood from a landscape of labor to a landscape of leisure, and the appearance of the property today is largely the result of her efforts.
In 1925, Senator William C. Hodges and his wife, Margaret, purchased Goodwood. Senator Hodges had a long and distinguished career in Florida politics. He and Margaret regularly entertained many of the state’s socially and politically prominent leaders until Senator Hodges’ death in 1940.
In 1948, Margaret Hodges married Thomas M. Hood, an army officer who had been renting one of the property’s guest cottages. Together they enjoyed a comfortable life at Goodwood. After Margaret’s death in 1978, Hood began planning for the restoration of Goodwood to look as it did when his wife first saw the property in 1920s. Hood wanted the property become a museum and greenspace that would serve the Tallahassee community. Goodwood’s mission is based on that vision:
Goodwood Museum & Gardens connects our community as a setting where we preserve and share our history, enjoy the arts, and celebrate significant events in our lives.
This residence (Goodwood) is well worth visiting, because it affords a striking evidence of how elegantly the old time planters enjoyed life.
Seasons of Goodwood
The Seasons of Goodwood, by Walli Beall, follows the historic property from its establishment in the mid-19th century, across the lives of five fascinatingly different owners, to the Goodwood Museum & Gardens we know and love today.
The Seasons of Goodwood is available for purchase for $20. To get your copy today, please stop by the Goodwood Visitors Center or contact JoAnn Bixler, Director of Rentals and Special Events (firstname.lastname@example.org or 850.877.4202 x228).