Riverside marks its 100th year at Benning
June 13, 2009
- Riverside Home was built in 1909 by Arthur Bussey, a Columbus businessman
- Forty-nine Infantry commandants have resided there since 1918
- Among the famous Army figures who lived on the property: Omar Bradley, Joseph Harper, George C. Marshall and Dwight Eisenhower
One might call it Fort Benning's little White House.
Riverside sits on an 18-acre estate, a plot of land equal in size to the grounds at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
This year, the white-columned frame house, home to a succession of commanding generals - including Omar Bradley, Courtney Hodges, Joseph Harper and Carmen Cavezza - turns a century old. Post officials said it's the oldest structure on Fort Benning.
"It's a fantastic house, synonymous with Fort Benning," said MG Michael Barbero, the current occupant, along with his wife, Linda. "It's a venue for everyone, with all the public events held here. I don't see it as our house. I see it as part of the community. That's what makes it so special."
Built in 1909 by Arthur Bussey, a Columbus businessman, the dwelling was a family summer home and among the last major self-supporting plantations in west Georgia, according to historical data. The kitchen, part of an old meeting house moved to Riverside on logs from Lumpkin Road, dates to the early 1800s.
Once completed by Bussey, Riverside had two parlors and a dining room. Although designed as a summer home, several fireplaces also were added. The wood panels and floors are made of pine.
The home is surrounded by verandas, while flowers and towering oak trees adorn the grounds.
"Every room has a little different character to it," Linda said. "There are different scents on different parts of the acreage - the sweet smells of the South."
A sunroom features paintings from World War I, including one signed by President Woodrow Wilson. The dining room contains a mural of Confederate GEN Henry Lewis Benning, along with a long, wooden table that was an old meeting spot.
"You can only imagine the discussions that took place here," Linda said.
In July 1971, the five-bedroom home was added to the National Register of Historic Sites.
Jean Harron, a longtime Columbus resident, served as a tour guide from 1978 to 2006 and knew three of the Bussey children. She said other plantations didn't get the same attention because Riverside was the most beautiful and paid for itself.
"From Mr. Bussey's standpoint, he made it successful and made it self-sustaining - when people said it couldn't be done," Harron said. "The generals who lived there always honored the house and didn't change it too much."
Riverside became a military quarters in 1918 after the Infantry School moved to Columbus from Fort Sill, Okla. Since then, 49 commandants have resided there.
Other famous Army figures also lived on the property.
GEN of the Army George C. Marshall, a lieutenant colonel and assistant commandant from November 1927 to June 1932, resided in a structure behind the home that was later demolished.
Between August 1926 and January 1927, GEN of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower occupied quarters to the right front of Riverside. At the time, the future president was a major and commander of the 2nd Battalion, 24th Infantry.
Harron said GEN of the Armies John J. Pershing, who led the American Expeditionary Force in World War I, visited the home in Fort Benning's early years.
A large plaque on a first-floor hallway bears the dates and names of former commanding generals who resided at Riverside. It's also lined with old photographs.
"These are genuine legends in the Army who lived here. Every time I look at it, it's really humbling," MG Barbero said. "It's a tremendous privilege and honor for me to have lived in the same place. I'm serving in the shadow of these great heroes."
Past commandants and their wives often return for visits, Mrs. Barbero said. She enjoys watching their reactions to Riverside's development over the years.
"When they see it again, they're almost in tears," she said. "Every occupant brings their own personality and flavor to this house ... We're just very humbled to be a part of history."