The Shooting Box - Plantation House, Hunting Lodge, and a Piece of History

The Shooting Box – Plantation House, Hunting Lodge, and a Piece of History

When people think of Southern plantation houses they may think of big big white columns and broad verandas, but the house we stayed in on a recent quail hunting trip down South was a far and charming cry from the ante-bellum architectural cliché. Nestled among the pines and surrounded by camellias […]

When people think of Southern plantation houses they may think of big big white columns and broad verandas, but the house we stayed in on a recent quail hunting trip down South was a far and charming cry from the ante-bellum architectural cliché. Nestled among the pines and surrounded by camellias and blossoming redbuds, the house at Foshalee Plantation is more old-time Adirondack than grandiose Greek Revival, but the hospitality is as warm and Southern as it gets.

Foshalee Plantation in Leon County, Florida and Thomas County, Georgia
Harry Payne Whitney's "Shooting Box" as it is today. The Foshalee Plantation today is some 11,000 acres sprawling from Leon County, Florida, to Thomas County, Georgia

Built in 1922 by its then-owner Harry Payne Whitney (yes those Whitneys) the house’s exterior shingles are made of cypress and were all split right there on the property from trees in the slough (pronounced slew) of Lake Foshalee. Young boys, black and whilte, children of the families who lived and worked on or around the plantation, did much of the work.

The name Foshalee is an Indian word meaning dry lake or dry water, which is sort of a contradiction in terms but you know what they mean.  Whitney called the house the Shooting Box.

Foshalee Japanese Magnolia
Foshalee Japanese Magnolia

Whitney was one of many wealthy Northerners who bought plantations in the Thomasville-Tallahassee area in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and spent the winter months here shooting, riding,  hunting, and good-time-having. In fact the story goes that when Harry, as he was known, was trying to decide where to build the house, he and a buddy toured the place in a horse-drawn buggy driven by a young black employee. Of course they brought something with them in case they got thirsty. Well the day wore on and Harry and friend got drunk and never could decide where to put the house, so they asked the young fella what he thought. He pretty much looked up right from where he was and pointed –“there,” and proceeded to recommend it with great conviction. Whitney and his friend, between hiccups, agreed.

Foshalee in the Snow
A rare sight - Foshalee in the Snow - 1989(?)

Sadly it seems Mrs. Whitney, neé Gertrude Vanderbilt (yes those Vanderbilts) was not much interested in Foshalee. She was a sculptor and art collector and founder of a little museum called the Whitney Museum of American Art and spent her summers at a little house in Newport called The Breakers.

Nothing against gilded-age marble mansions on cliffs overlooking the ocean, but Foshalee is everything The Breakers is not. Modest, unpretentious, homey, and real.

And though there have been several storied families to own Foshalee since the Whitneys, The distinct impression is that while improvements and additions have been made over time, the intention of the place has not changed. Why womp it up into something it doesn’t need to be? It’s just right just like it is: a piece of history and a peace of mind.

Foshalee Screen Door
A slant of sun across the screen door leading to a mud room, two of the seven bedrooms, and a sitting area.

Which is not to diminish the house’s aesthetic attributes. A resident lizard, for example. And if he wanted to tell me how I could “save 20% or more on car insurance!”, he didn’t. He kept to himself. Country lizards are like that.

Foshalee Lizard
Foshalee lizard

The pecky cypress paneled living room is lived-in and comfortable. The ribbed vaulted ceiling is repeated in the dining room down the hall.

Foshalee Living Room
Foshalee Living Room

The dining room’s herringbone wall paneling is handsome, and a carved molding adds another bit of architectural interest. Through the door to the left is the butler’s pantry leading to the kitchen.

Foshalee Dining Room
Foshalee Dining Room
Foshalee Table Setting
Our dinners were delicious and the tables pretty.

Ah, and my favorite room in the house, the bar. A collection of old family photographs and other memorabilia are arranged in the compact space,

Foshalee Bar
Foshalee Bar

as are the julep cup trophies won through the years by the dog-loving owners in field trial competitions.

Foshalee Field Trial Trophies
Foshalee Field Trial Trophies

This beautiful pheasant feather and pine cone wreath was on the door.

Foshalee - Pheasant Wreath
Foshalee - Pheasant and Pinecone Wreath

And I still love old-timey twin beds in guest rooms, though in this age of super-sizing they seem to be increasingly rare.

Foshalee Guest Room
Foshalee Guest Room

It had been a while since I’d seen one of these…

Foshalee Crocheted TP Cover
Foshalee Crocheted TP Cover

Or one of these… The radio part worked like a charm. I could get the Tallahassee NPR station clear as a bell and was tickled about that.

Foshalee Cassette Player
Foshalee Cassette Player

Now I had never seen one of these, but I did recognize it as a boot jack. Very handy, boot jacks.

Foshalee Cassette Player
Foshalee Boot Jack

And my personal favorite of Foshalee’s decorative accessories:

Foshalee Dog Pillow
Foshalee Dog Pillow
Foshalee rose and redbud
Foshalee rose and redbud

Today Foshalee is owned by the Ireland family, and ably looked after by Mrs. Deborah Northcutt. If you’d like more information, let me know and I will put you in touch. To read more about the area’s plantations and the prominent (and glamorous!) families who owned them, see this excellent feature on the New York Social Diary here. And my earlier post on the hunting–quite a site on horseback and mule-drawn wagons are here— and on the–ahem–spitting, here.

Quail hunting on Foshalee Plantation
Quail hunting on Foshalee Plantation
After the hunt - Foshalee Plantation
After the hunt. From left, His Grace, me, Brother-in-Law Rex, Sister Duvall, Reid the dog handler, Robert the wagon driver, and Colby the outrider still in rain gear, which we all needed earlier but he actually had. Foshalee Plantation

17 Comments

  1. Oh, man! I want to move in, please? I envy that lizard.

  2. Ahhhh, the TP cover. It’s been a long time for me as well. Hee! Hee!

  3. Laurette Kittle

    another sweet entry full of touching articles of times past… like the twin beds and love those lizards!

  4. Randall Day

    Love that dining room that is so carefully crafted and magnificent yet not “arty.”
    Partner, BTW, loves the term “pecky cypress” and uses it to describe any light brown wood… works it into as many conversations as possible (probably all those Palm Beach years…).

  5. Charming! It looks like everyone had a great time. Love that TP holder … think my grandmother had one.
    xo, Lissy

  6. Hi Frances, you were like in my backyard ! hope you enjoyed our warm spell. Sonya (over in Jackson Co. Fl)

  7. M. A. Smith

    Well, I never knew the Vanderbilts and Whitneys enjoyed a down-home vibe complete with pecky cyprus boards! I remember visiting their elegant stables and lofty mansions on my beloved Long Island. But I suppose everyone needs to get back to nature sometimes – even the lowly geckos!

  8. Croft Whitener Lane

    hi fFances,
    I am part of this quail shooting life… if you want to do it again, let me know…More importantly, I just became a grandmother! I hope she will be a tatrheel one day! Please let me know if you visit Charleston. You are always welcome in our home
    xo
    Croft

    • Croft! How great to hear from you again, and thank you! But a grandmother? My goodness surely not… Lord child, but what am I saying — I am a step-grandmère myself! Will surely let you know when we head to Charleston. I am due a visit – it has been too long. Love to you and yours, Frances

  9. Croft Whitener Lane

    yes I am a very young grandmother !! Ha ha. botox hides many wrinkles!! I am trying to remember the years at st. marys. i was there from 1974-1976., do you remeber that? Iwas a Cold Cut!played the crazy stick!I guess you were in high school then, so I am 56 now, but i feel much younger,
    hope you can visit

  10. Carolyn Vaughan

    I used the wallpaper (behind the TP cover) in some spec houses my ex built in late 60’s -early 70’s. Great pattern with bold colors to use as accents.

  11. Becky Roddenbery

    Frances
    So thankful for families like the Irelands that have spend years of planning to keep the plantations like Foshalee and others in South Georgia open. The Japanese Magnolias have been breath taking this year due to some days in the 70s and not much frost.
    Your photos are the best. Thank you for thinking of us your devoted readers.
    XO..Becky

  12. Always pure joy to travel with you wherever your camera and your fluid vocabulary of “just the right words” takes us!!! What a splendid memory..I could almost smell that old house, musty smell that lets you know many have gone before you!!! You are the BEST!!! xoxo Mary Mac

  13. T.R. Newman Jr

    I hope “His Grace”‘s shooting eye has improved since the last time he went after quail.

    • Dear TR, so nice to hear from you as I have heard so much about you. In the interest of domestic tranquility, however, I’m going to plead the 5th on His Grace’s behalf on this one. The shooting was challenging to say the least. Thank you for writing!! 😉 Frances

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