Rose Lawn began as a small, one-story structure designed and built by local merchant Nelson Gilreath in the 1860s. The attic was converted to bedrooms about 1872, and, following Sam Jones's purchase of the property in the early 1880s, a two-story wing was added to the rear of the house.
In 1895 construction began to raise the existing two floors and add a third floor and basement underneath. The cost of raising the structure was $110. The addition built underneath the original two-story cottage was tremendous in size, with twelve foot ceilings and ten foot double doors leading to most of the rooms. The new first floor consisted of a parlor, family music room (or sitting room), library, two dining rooms, and a kitchen. Wood moldings, particularly the coffered ceiling of the Dining Room, were of superior workmanship. When completed, Rose Lawn stood in grand elegance as an eighteen-room mansion and was considered an architectural wonder of its day.
Rose Lawn derived its name from the 200 rose bushes that once bloomed along the fences and walkways of the estate. Though since lost, roses are again blooming at Rose Lawn as the grounds undergo renovation and restoration. Original outbuildings on the grounds included a smoke house, barbecue house, school house/study, additional kitchen, carriage house, servants quarters, greenhouse, and well. Today the school house, smoke house, and carriage house are the only remaining outbuildings.
Sam Jones died in 1906, and his wife remained at Rose Lawn until her death twenty years later. Laura McElwain Jones had always loved Rose Lawn and, even when the family outgrew it (the Jones's had seven children), did not want to leave her cottage home. When financial gifts were received specifically for the purpose of acquiring a new, larger home, Laura Jones again refused to leave and the couple began investigating ways to enlarge the [Laura McElwain Jones]
Following Laura Jones's death, in 1927 the property was purchased by Emried Dargon Cole, who brought his young bride, Marie Gilreath, to Rose Lawn from Rome, Georgia. Following the death of Mr. Cole, Mrs. Cole remarried first, Madison Bell of Atlanta, and later, Guy Parmenter of Cartersville. Mrs. Marie Cole Bell Parmenter continued to live in the house for the next forty-one years, keeping it a showplace and displaying the many items she collected from frequent travels throughout the U.S. and Europe. During her occupancy of the home, Mrs. Parmenter made many improvements to Rose Lawn, including the installation of an elevator and a reflecting pool.
After the death of Marie Parmenter in 1968, Rose Lawn lay vacant. The once beautiful home was almost decimated by vandals. In 1973, citizens of Cartersville and Bartow County undertook a drive to save the historic home, beginning with the successful placement of Rose Lawn on the National Register of Historic Places. Following placement, Bartow County Commissioner Olin Tatum, with other concerned residents, began the task of fundraising to make it possible for Rose Lawn to become a house museum.
Rose Lawn was purchased by Bartow County in 1978 and developed into a museum to house the writings and memorabilia of Sam Jones and Rebecca Latimer Felton, another Bartow Countian distinguished for her role in history as the first woman to serve in the U.S. Senate. The house has been furnished throughout the years with the generous donations of private collections from local families, the Etowah Valley Historical Society, the Pilot Club, and the local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Support from the community continues in general, and with the organized help of Friends of Rose Lawn.
The personalities of Sam and Laura Jones are still very evident at Rose Lawn, reminders of the affection of thousands of people in the U.S. and Canada for a reformed alcoholic who became one of the country's most famous and beloved evangelists. Historians estimate that of the $750,000 which passed through the Rev. Jones's hands during his evangelistic career, over three-fourths went to build YMCA buildings, churches, and tabernacles, and to send young men and women to teaching colleges. Here in Cartersville, Jones built the Sam Jones Female College, which later became Cartersville High School.
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