Built in 1842 by Reverend Nathaniel Pratt , one of Roswell's founders and the founding minister of the Roswell Presbyterian Church, it was the manor house of a plantation that produced sorghum, corn, and wheat. The home was to have been built of lumber but the lumber was destroyed by fire. The Reverend, determined to build a home for his bride, Catherine Barrington King Pratt, resorted to brick. The bricks were made from Georgia clay and water from a meadow stream.
The Gardens at Great Oaks features an unusual divided "good morning" staircase, which has four separate flights of stairs leading from a common landing located between the first and second floors. Two flights ascend, east and west, to the upstairs bedrooms. One flight descends east from landing to the center hall, while another goes north from the landing downstairs to the side entry. The arrangement affords privacy to a family member who might wish to go from the upstairs to the kitchen without facing possible guests in the parlor.
During the Union occupation of Roswell, The Gardens at Great Oaks was the headquarters for Garrard's cavalry. Prior to the arrival of troops, Reverend Pratt's sons ran the blockade to be sure everything was safe with their parents. Arriving home, they went into the third story of The Gardens at Great Oaks and loosened the wide pine boards leading to the eaves. They called the space on the south side of the house "Augusta" and the space on the north side "Macon". Everything of value was hidden there and then the boards were slipped back into place. The hiding places were never found during the two-week occupation. When asked about various items, their truthful response was always given: "It was sent to Macon or Augusta."
Structurally, the house has been altered very little. In 2002 , The Gardens at Great Oaks was sold to James Hugh and Linda Lively who are the current owners of this Roswell Historic District centerpiece. It is with pleasure that they are now able to make the house available for very special events. This significant historical landmark has been and should remain entwined with the life of Roswell and the surrounding area.
It has been suggested that no home in the South has extended more true and simple hospitality than The Gardens at Great Oaks. The 18 inch walls of solid brick and mortar are surely one of the reasons it remains standing after 160 years.
During renovation, several letters were discovered that had slipped under the floorboards! All are from the 1800’s and subject matters range from lumber bills during original construction to religious and political discussions.