Milky Way Farm

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Milky Way Farm
Milky Way Farm Manor House.JPG
Milky Way Farm Manor House, May 2014.
Milky Way Farm is located in Tennessee
Milky Way Farm
Milky Way Farm is located in the US
Milky Way Farm
Nearest city Pulaski, Tennessee
Coordinates 35°18′37″N 87°2′15″W / 35.31028°N 87.03750°W / 35.31028; -87.03750Coordinates: 35°18′37″N 87°2′15″W / 35.31028°N 87.03750°W / 35.31028; -87.03750
Area 500 acres (200 ha)
Built 1931
Architect James F. Drake
Architectural style Tudor Revival
NRHP reference # 84003537[1]
Added to NRHP September 27, 1984

Milky Way Farm in Giles County, Tennessee, is the former estate of Franklin C. Mars, founder of Mars Candies. The property is named for the company's Milky Way candy bar.[2] During the Great Depression, the estate was the largest employer in the county.[2][3] The estate is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as an historic district;[2][3] its manor house is now a venue for special events.[4]


Franklin Mars and his second wife, Ethel V. Mars, purchased the 2,800-acre (11 km2) property in 1930, shortly after establishing a southern office of Mars Candies in Nashville. Architect James F. Drake was hired to design the Tudor Revival manor house and farm facilities for breeding Thoroughbred horses and Hereford cattle. Construction peaked between 1931 and 1933. With 800 workers during construction, Milky Way Farm became the largest employer in Giles County.[2] During construction, many of the workers lived on the farm with their families. Mars is reputed to have been generous to his workers, who received free candy bars, as well as small loans and other forms of assistance.[3]

Mars died in 1934, too soon to see the success of the farming operations. He was buried in a mausoleum on Milky Way Farm. His widow, Ethel Mars, oversaw the planned livestock operations. Milky Way Farm produced prize-winning Hereford cattle and thoroughbred horses that were winners on the racetrack, beginning with the farm's first racing season in 1934.[2] Winnings in 1936 totaled $206,450, making the Milky Way Farm stable the season's most successful owner on the U.S. thoroughbred racing circuit.[5] In 1940, Milky Way Farm’s Gallahadion won the Kentucky Derby.[3]

In March 1945, when Ethel Mars was in declining health (she died in December 1945), the farm was sold.[6][7] In the subsequent decades it fell into disrepair.[3]


The 25,000-square-foot (2,300 m2) Tudor Revival manor house has 35 rooms, including 21 bedrooms, and 12 original bathrooms. The house was designed for entertaining, and many of the individual rooms are unusually large. The living room features exposed beams and a 40-foot (12 m) ceiling. The Mars' dining room table is reputed to have been the largest private dining table in Tennessee. The house was surrounded by landscaped grounds, including magnolia trees, and had an outdoor swimming pool and tennis courts.[2][3][6]

Outbuildings included 70 cottages, 30 barns, and a horse-racing track. Local limestone was used in most of the farm buildings, which have been described as having Spanish-inspired architecture.[2][3] In Ethel Mars' day, the property had 35 miles (56 km) of fences and 20 miles (32 km) of roads.[6] Outbuildings that were still intact as of 2007 included the groundskeeper’s cottage; several of the barns, including an octagonal barn; stables; and well-houses.[2] Although Franklin Mars' remains were reinterred in a Minnesota cemetery, his mausoleum at Milky Way Farm still stands.[2]

Milky Way Farm was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on September 27, 1984. It was described as significant for its role in sustaining the local economy during the Depression, its association with Franklin Mars, and its architecture.[2]

Development plans[edit]

In 2007 the property was sold for a reported price of $10 million. The buyer announced plans for a $400 million development of a luxury residential community to consist of 750 to 900 homes, an equestrian club including a horse track and polo field, a golf course, and equestrian trails.[2][3][8] The developer succeeded in selling only a few lots and the property went into foreclosure in May 2009. In 2010, another developer acquired 300 acres (120 ha) of the property in 2010 and announced plans for a less ambitious residential development.[9] Under the current ownership, the manor house is being made available as a private venue for special events.[4]


  1. ^ National Park Service (2009-03-13). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Caneta Skelley Hankins, Milky Way Farm, Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Donnie Snow, Re-raising the Bar, Business TN magazine, November 2007
  4. ^ a b Historic Manor house is now available for private reservation, Milky Way Farms website, accessed December 27, 2010
  5. ^ Sport: Luck and Mrs. Mars, Time, January 4, 1937
  6. ^ a b c Justin Leonard, Florence, Handles Sale of Milky Way, Florence (Alabama) Times, March 10, 1945
  7. ^ Ethel V. Mars, Head of Candy Firm, Dies, Billboard, January 5, 1946
  8. ^ Dennis Ferrier, Development Under Way At Milky Way Farms; Pulaski Development To Include Golf Course, Equine Events, WSMV-TV. April 6, 2007
  9. ^ Richard Lawson, Former Werthan Developer Takes on Milky Way Farms, Nashville Chatter Class, August 20, 2010.

External links[edit]