2005-11-25

Lumpkin House myth

Wilson Lumpkin House

The Lumpkin House, built by the nineteenth-century Georgia politician Wilson Lumpkin, is on the University of Georgia campus. His daughter, Martha Compton, sold the house and the surrounding acreage to the university, and the story goes that it was conveyed only on the condition that if the house is ever torn down then the land would revert back to the family. That story explains why the old house is allowed to still stand.

That is not exactly true, however. Prof. Randy Beck from the School of Law obtained a copy of the deed and showed it to my first-year property class this semester during the segment of our course about defeasible fee simples. My classmates and I quickly deciphered the instrument as conveying a fee simple absolute with a restrictive covenant.

This means that if the university did tear down the house, they would keep the land regardless. The heirs may have standing to sue for breach of contract, however. How they would be identified and contacted in order to cooperate is anyone's guess.

So I would file this silly story behind the one about the Tree That Owns Itself.