With the promise of less humidity and comfortable temperatures upon us, now is a good time to get out and explore our community. One place worth a visit is Spring Villa in Opelika. Not only is it situated on 350 acres, it’s shrouded in mystery—perfect for the spooky season ahead!
Spring Villa Park
The Opelika park consists of the Penn Yonge house, campgrounds, a lodge, volleyball court, horseshoe pit, walking trails, picnic areas, and more. At one time, a clear 30-acre spring-fed lake was a centerpiece for the grounds. In the heyday, guests were treated to a ride in a glass bottom boat delighted by the tropical fish Yonge imported swimming underneath.
Spring Villa Park in Opelika is located at 1474 Lee Road 148. The park, which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, includes a lodge that is available as a venue for social gatherings and even has an outdoor stage perfect for a band.
There are also 30 campsites with electrical hook-ups that can be reserved for about $35 a night.
The Penn Yonge House
The home was built in the 1850s by the famous bridge builder Horace King for Penn and Mary Yonge. King was a freed slave once belonging to Mary’s father, John Godwin. Mary and her siblings freed King after the death of their father. Out of love and affection for the family, King built the house for the Yonge’s.
Yonge was a self-made man who met Mary in Girard, Alabama. The two were married around 1846. In 1849 Yonge went to California and met reasonable success with gold mining. When he returned in 1851, he discovered the value of raw limestone and created what became Chewacla Lime Works.
Legend has it, Yonge was a lavish man with a love for entertaining. Big social gatherings often included those glass bottom boat tours to an island in the middle of the lake. Guests enjoyed picnics and strolls among the weeping willows and beautiful flowers. Even though Yonge was known to be a kind host, rumor had it, he was not such a kind boss.
He died in 1878, and to this day, the details remain a mystery.
The Legend of the 13th Step
There are more than a few versions of what happened and why Penn Yonge was murdered, but the most popular points to a disgruntled servant. They say the servant hid in a small space halfway up the narrow staircase. As Yonge, who was home alone as his wife and son were away, ascended the steps, the man jumped out and stabbed him to death.
The Southern Paranormal Researchers submitted a known history, which stated that before the 13th step rotted away and had to be replaced in 1957, it contained a dark red stain said to be Yonge’s blood. Even today, visitors are told to be cautious of the step.
Spring Villa in Opelika has a rich—and slightly spooky—history. Feeling bored? Pack a picnic in your Tree Tops kitchen before heading out to this unique local spot. For other cool things to do around town, check out our blog.