VALLAMBROSA PLANTATION SAVANNAH GEORGIA
To understand Vallambrosa Plantation and the many diverse opportunities that she possesses, one must gently drift into her story: a story of Native Americans, kings, wealthy rice plantation owners, slaves, US Army Generals and soldiers, botanists, perhaps the world’s most famous industrial magnate, certainly the world’s most famous inventor, railroads, farms, blue-collar workers, sharecroppers, laborers, bald eagles and birds of every kind, animals, fish, the Georgia Low Country, Savannah and the rest of the Ogeechee River’s bounty. One must look at decades of prosperity followed by decades of despair and back and forth again and again; of broken plans and broken deals and broken promises and a series of Masterfully guided occurrences that have culminated to now—now, this moment in time where the stars align to do well while doing good, to prosper while protecting that which needs to be protected, to gain monetarily in great measure by doing the right thing that ultimately is so great that it can never be truly measured; and treasures we will leave will make this world a better place. That is Vallambrosa’s opportunity. This is her story.
Located a mere fifteen minutes from Savannah’s Historic District, Vallambrosa Plantation makes up a significant portion of Savannah’s “southside.” This area of Savannah is known as Georgetown, after King George II who started doling out king’s grants in 1755 to loyal rice planters who immediately began farming rice as reflected in a 1756 survey housed in the United States National Archives. Using slave labor, the rice plantation owners began building dikes and impoundments to control the fresh and brackish water marshes so rice could be cultivated. Rice was king on Vallambrosa until the Civil War and the arrival of General Sherman and the 13th Infantry of Missouri, who spent the better part of December, 1864 encamped on there to prepare for the taking of Fort McAllister sitting along the Ogeechee River in northern Bryan County, GA. The western boundary of Vallambrosa was then what it is today: the railroad as it runs from Savannah across the Ogeechee River south to Jacksonville, FL, thus making Vallambrosa extremely important strategically for the war effort.
After the Civil War, Vallambrosa Plantation, like much of the South, withered. A series of owners and foreclosures and neglect and disrepair followed. Cuban-American Andres E. Moynelo acquired interest in Vallambrosa Plantation when he married Laura Heyward, the widow of Walter Blake Heyward, in 1872. He was active in Savannah and travelled the world as a botanical hobbyist, diplomat and businessman. It was Moynelo who brought bamboo to Vallambrosa from Japan. The same bamboo that now makes the Bamboo Farm on nearby Highway 17 in Savannah famous. Unfortunately, Moynelo and his wife lost Vallambrosa to bank foreclosure in 1897. Vallambrosa Plantation sat mainly idle until she was purchased in 1923 by J. L. Boudreau, a wealthy farmer and produce broker in Savannah. He immediately began farming the plantation for his vegetable brokering business and with Vallambrosa Plantation’s proximity to the adjacent railroad, transporting his crops to markets all over the eastern seaboard was easy.
In February of 1930, just 4 months after Black Tuesday, Boudreau sold Vallambrosa Plantation to his famous neighbor to the south in Bryan County, none other than Henry Ford. While Mr. Boudreau had bought a neglected property, he sold a well-groomed, classic, southern plantation that was a productive vegetable farm and had a beautifully restored plantation home that possessed “every modern convenience.” Henry bought Vallambrosa to preserve his view from his home in neighboring Bryan County just across the Ogeechee River. He placed the then 4,067 acre Vallambrosa Plantation into the hands of a trusted farm manager who kept her humming like his well-oiled Ford machines that made him the world’s wealthiest man. Ford also used Vallambrosa for experimental botanical work as he and his good friends Thomas Edison and Harvey Firestone were trying to find a financially viable alternative for rubber production for automobile tires and hoses. Ford owned Vallambrosa until he died in 1947, with the Ford Foundation selling Vallambrosa in 1951 after the death of Ford’s widow.
The Property again languished until the late 1950’s in failed commercial farming attempts following the opening of Union Camp paper mill in Savannah that usurped the cheap labor needed to run a successful truck farming operation. Hunting and outdoor activities were the subsistence emphasis until the 1980’s when Jewett Tucker started piecing together Vallambrosa with surrounding lands to amass an over 12,000 acre contiguous parcel. Interestingly, Tucker’s plans for a large resort development were thwarted by the real estate collapse and in 2009 Vallambrosa Plantation was foreclosed upon again. The plantation was held for 5 years until its then owners, Canyon Capital, decided to sell her at absolute auction on November 20, 2014. But Dr. Jerry Williams had a different idea for Vallambrosa Plantation. Having studied her size, geographic location and millions of dollars in hard infrastructure including water, sewer, phone, cable and more to support building approximately 3,400 homes, two hotels and a shopping center; Vallambrosa Plantation, LLC (“The Company”) was formed to purchase The Property.