Newnan is full of big, beautiful homes that date as far back as the 1800s, earning this city the moniker “City of Homes”.
The McRitchie-Hollis Museum is one of the newer homes in the historic district around the Newnan Square.
This large, beautiful building was once the home of Ellis and Mildred Peniston, a prominent Newnan family.
Popular architect Kennon Perry designed and built the home, which was completed in 1937 just as the nation was preparing for another war.
Ellis and Mildred shared the large home with their domestic servants. They never had children of their own, but were very fond of their nieces and nephews.
We visited this historic house on a warm, clear day. The first thing we noticed as we walked in is the gracefully curving staircase that sweeps up to the second floor. We wondered if anyone has ever been tempted to slide down the bannister!
The front entrance is large and airy, flooded with natural light from the many windows. The beautiful floors glow from the sunlight streaming in from the windows.
The walls of the foyer are painted with a colorful bird theme that did not exist in the original home, but captures the spirit of the décor.
Today, the house is closely restored to the condition it was in when Mildred “Bunny” and Ellis Peniston occupied it.
The spacious rooms are richly furnished and the highly polished hardwood floors are laid with gorgeous rugs.
Walking through this lovely mid-century home, it’s hard to imagine that it was recently a hospital facility. The expansive rooms were carved up into offices.
When the Newnan Coweta Historical Society acquired the property, they fully restored the home to its original beauty.
Only one room is not exactly as it was.
The powder room previously connected to the downstairs bathroom, but it was sealed up by the hospital.
The bottom floor of the home is filled with intricately carved wood details.
Our two favorite rooms were the kitchen and the study.
The study is a dark, wood paneled room filled with books, leather chairs and a little writing desk. Susan spent a lot of time in the study as she is a huge bibliophile and loved browsing among all the books.
We loved the kitchen. It was restored with great attention to period accuracy, is where the domestic servants would have spent much of their time.
The cheerful kitchen has black and white tiled floors, stainless steel countertops and 1940s appliances. The green cabinets are lovely.
One of our favorite things about historic homes is the chance to glimpse what everyday life was like in a particular period of time.
We feel like no room in the house illustrates this better than the kitchen.
The Penistons were a wealthy family who would have enjoyed plentiful meals prepared by their servants.
Their wealth did not spare them from cutting back once World War II had begun.
This was a time of ration for the nation.
As our tour guide and Newnan-Coweta Historical Society Coordinator Jeff Bishop explained, rationing during this time was considered an act of patriotism.
The Penistons were deeply involved in the war effort.
Mr. Peniston was Chair of the Newnan war bond committee.
Aunt Bunny had two beloved nephews fighting abroad.
We found it very interesting that Ellis Arnall, the wartime governor of Georgia, was the first cousin of Mildred “Bunny” Peniston.
The couple was very committed to ensuring they did as much as they could to aid the war effort in Georgia.
We entered the second floor from the back staircase, which is beautiful, but not nearly as grand as the staircase in the foyer.
The top floor features an exhibit that rotates seasonally.
When we went, it happened to be a WWII exhibit. We are both fascinated with WWII so we spent lots on time on this exhibit.
The exhibit, put together by Jeff Bishop and the Newnan Historical Society, highlighted the role of Coweta County in the war.
In addition to the 2,000 men that were deployed from Newnan, the citizens that remained at home were important to the war effort. We found all the tidbits about life in Newnan during WWII to be particular interesting.
The purchase of war bonds and food rationing were important to the war effort, but Newnan also needed a women heavy workforce.
Coweta women joined those all over the country and took over the jobs vacated by men now fighting in Europe.
Of the 2,000 men who left, 63 never returned.
As we walked through Aunt Bunny’s very pink room, we learned the story of her nephew.
Richard Cook III was a medic in the European theatre.
Aunt Bunny was very close to her nephew and wrote him at least once a week.
He suffered a near fatal accident that left him in a coma for weeks.
Upon not hearing from him, the family became very upset fearing the worst.
We can only imagine their joy when they learned that he was alive and recovering from the accident that nearly killed him.
He was lucky enough to return to Newnan and meet the daughter born in his absence.
Aunt Bunny was an avid letter writer.
The many letters she left behind tell a story of a woman full of personality, devoted to her family and friends.
The florid patterns and busy décor of her pink bedroom seem to mirror her personality.
We took a peek into her bathroom that adjoins the bedroom and were greeted with an all lavender bathroom, right down to the fixtures.
We could have spent hours in the house.
There are so many gorgeous architectural details and so much history.
The displays are in constant rotation so that there is always something new at the museum.
We were particularly excited to learn of a textile display planned for December.
It will feature clothes from the museums collection and will be in conjunction with the Candlelight Tour of Homes, which is one of our favorite events in Newnan.
The museum is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from ten to two. There is a nominal entrance fee.
The museum is available for weddings, special events and photography sessions.
Follow the Newnan Coweta Historical Society on Facebook to keep up with new displays and special events at the museum.
We had a wonderful time on our visit to the McRitchie-Hollis Museum and we are definitely looking forward to a return trip.