In 1880, Hiram Anderson Butler built the home that is the centerpiece of Smith-Gilbert Gardens, just outside of what was then called Big Shanty, now Kennesaw. The house is located on what was originally Cherokee land that was disbursed as Land Lot 178 through the 1832 Land Lottery.
According to historical land records, Butler bought 160 acres on January 7, 1880 and began construction of the house, a single-level dwelling with five bedrooms and triple-layer solid brick walls measuring over 12” thick. The bricks are thought to have been fired in nearby Acworth and transported to Kennesaw. The style of the house has both Italianate and Greek Revival influences.
The Butler family sold the house in 1913 and the property subsequently passed through six more private owners before being acquired in 2005 by the City of Kennesaw. Over time, parcels of the land were sold off, and the existing property now encompasses 13 acres. The property was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1995.
Prior to being acquired by the City of Kennesaw, the estate was owned by Robert R. Gilbert who purchased the property in 1970. During 35 years of ownership, Gilbert and Richard L. Smith added the extensive gardens and sculpture collection.
Of note, Hiram Butler had an interesting past. During the Civil War, Butler played a role in the Great Locomotive Chase as he helped track down the Union raiders led by James Andrews that stole The General locomotive and attempted to destroy rail lines heading north to Chattanooga. Having received the rank of major for his service in the Confederacy, Butler worked for Western & Atlantic Railway, which ultimately became the Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railway. Western & Atlantic was the state of Georgia’s first chartered railroad.