The once forgotten Dunaway Gardens near Newnan, Georgia are returning to their former glory and re-hosting visitors and special events. The current owners, Jennifer and Roger Bigham, have undertaken a huge challenge over the past decade to discover the garden's infrastructure and restore its beauty. Today Dunaway Gardens covers 25 acres of natural beauty for visitors to enjoy.
The original creator of the gardens was Hettie Jane Dunaway, a well-known stage actress in the 1920s. She married Wayne Sewell, a booking agent in Atlanta, and moved to her family home south of Atlanta, Coweta County. Dunaway imagined the beautiful gardens surrounding her new home and began to improve the landscape. She designed ponds and reflected pools, waterfalls, stone walls and meandering sidewalks. Her vision included a variety of garden rooms including Sunken Garden, Rose Garden, Hanging Garden and Japanese Garden with Koi Pond. A rock garden was created around the rock outcrops on the property.
Part of Hettie Dunaway's vision for her new home was the creation of a theater center and a dramatic training school. She designed a terraced outdoor amphitheater that could be used for theater performances. The facility was large enough to accommodate 1,000 people. Patchwork Barn was an indoor theater scene. The Blue Bonnet tea room was created for dining and the wedding house provided accommodation to many of their guests. Friends of the couple and celebrities of the day began to visit gardens and enjoy theater performances. Famous guests included Walt Disney and his brother Roy and actress Tallulah Bankhead. Minnie Pearl was once a teacher at a theater school founded by Dunaway. The garden was the venue for theater performances, ballets and traveling performances in the 1920s and 1930s.
After Dunaway's death in 1961, property was neglected for decades. Some gardens were covered with kudzu and the stone walls fell apart. The Arsonists burned the tea room and the gardens were forgotten. This property has had many owners over the years, but the gardens have largely remained intact. The Bighams began to renew their property in 2000, revealing long-forgotten walls, pools, and rock gardens. They planted new roses, hydrangeas, original azaleas and rhododendrons. Dunaway Gardens is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Dunaway Gardens are open every year for the spring season. The public is most open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday in April and May. In June, the gardens are only open on Saturdays and Sundays. It is a popular place for spring weddings and other features. Admission is $ 10 for adults and $ 8 for children. The gardens are located 30 minutes south of Atlanta, on 3218 Roscoe Road near Newnan.