Featured image: Winston Place’s wrap-around porch has been looking over Valley Head for almost two centuries (Photo by Tyler Pruett)
By Tyler Pruett, Managing Editor
VALLEY HEAD, Ala. — For almost 200 years, The Winston Place has been seen by many as the centerpiece structure of the Valley Head community. It’s rich history is intertwined with town itself. When the construction began in 1831, it was likely one of the only buildings in the immediate area. Even over a century later, the tall white columns and wrap-around porches stand out.
Winston Place and the surrounding property is currently owned by Jim and Leslie Bunch. The property has been owned by Leslie’s family since 1944. The couple has since turned the historic home into a one-of-a-kind bed & breakfast.
The home is a picture perfect example of what we think of “Old South.” It has seen every bit of history that’s passed through Dekalb County since its settlement in the early 1800’s. The first resident, William Overton Winston, was instrumental in the growth of Valley Head, Dekalb County, and even our state.
Winston’s family moved from England in the late 17th century to Virginia. His family was of noble background, and had many notable figures in his family tree. Winston’s great aunt Lucy was the grandmother of Dolly Madison, while another great aunt, Sarah, was mother to Patrick Henry. You could easily say that the Winston family helped found America.
Much like his ancestors, William O. Winston moved his family to what is now known as Valley Head in 1836. This was early in the history of our state, and likely made him one of the first settlers. With a nearby spring-fed stream and good pasture land, the spot would be the natural choice of any settler. During the construction of the house, no lumber was available for 50 miles, and had to brought in by wagon.
Winston was an attorney by trade, and would often travel as far as Charleston, South Carolina for business. His work travel was so extensive that when the 3,000 acre farm was deeded from President Franklin Pierce, most of the control was given to Mrs. Winston since her husband was required to travel frequently.
The family watched the area’s most significant historical events happen from their porch. Not long after moving into the home, 14,000 Cherokee Indians would pass by on a forced march west, which would become known as the “Trail of Tears.”
Over twenty years later, the Civil War would come to Valley Head when 30,000 Union soldiers occupied Valley Head for three weeks. The home was used by the commanding general as a headquarters until the troops moved to Chattanooga. Two of Winston’s sons, George and William Jr., were killed fighting for the Confederacy, and are buried on the grounds. The elder Winston would also serve in the short-lived Confederate government.
While the original family called Winston Place home, the best room was reserved for visitors passing through. Jim and Leslie continue this tradition of hospitality to this day. Travelers can enjoy the view of the town and the valley from its high, wrap-around porch. Looking to the northeast offers a picturesque view of the surrounding pastures and Lookout Mountain.
The interior is decorated much like one would imagine the Winston family left it, with the addition of momento’s of the people that have called Winston Place home, including the current residents. Jim, who played football at the University of Alabama under the legendary coach Bear Bryant, has added memorabilia from his own storied past. The couple’s son also graduated from West Point and is currently an officer in the U.S. Army; carrying on the previous family’s military heritage.
“It’s been an adventure running a Bed and Breakfast,” said Leslie, “It’s a wonderful historic home and original structures are still standing. We’re happy to be a part of this historical home.”
“We’ve had a lot of interesting folks stop in,” Jim added, “We’ve had a New York Times writer stay with us, actors, and many other prominent people.”
Winston Place is also a popular wedding venue, with many couples taking their vows in the large yard with the rolling hills and Lookout Mountain as the backdrop.
Travelers who decide to stay the night at Winston Place are in for a unique lodging experience. No hotel can compare to staying at a place with such historical significance. The home and the family who built it were not only instrumental in settling the area, but contributed greatly to the growth of Alabama as a whole.