The Paradise Garden Foundation announced that it has acquired the last home the Rev. Howard Finster occupied at Paradise Garden. Mr. Finster, who was an American folk artist from North Georgia, lived in the house at the corner of Rena and Knox streets in the Pennville community from 1986 to 1991, before moving to a bigger home on the other side of downtown Summerville, his final residence.
After he moved from the humble one-story home on the edge of Paradise Garden, the house was renovated into an art gallery and served as the Garden's main entrance.
Howard's daughter Beverly operated the gallery-frame shop, and also opened a small bed and breakfast.
The house was not included in the 2.5-acre parcel that Chattooga County acquired in 2011 when it purchased Howard's irreplaceable folk art environment, putting it under the stewardship of Paradise Garden Foundation, a newly formed nonprofit.
"The board of Paradise Garden Foundation is excited at the opportunity to rejoin Howard's house with the original Garden footprint, and believes that he would be totally thrilled about this news," said Garden executive director Tina Cox. Paradise Garden, including Howard's third and final Pennville home, was added to the National Register for Historic Places in 2012.
The house was sold to the foundation at an approachable, under-market price by the Rev. Thomas Littleton, who sold the Garden to Chattooga County in 2011. A close friend of Howard Finster's who sought to extend the spiritual purpose and messages of the folk art environment, Littleton had purchased the Garden from Beverly Finster in 2006 and steered it as chairman of the board of a nonprofit he took over from Beverly, Paradise Gardens Park and Museum.
"The journey to redeem and preserve Howard's Paradise Garden has been a long one," Littleton said after the house sale closed on Friday, August 28, 2020. "Now we recognize the hard work and renewed efforts of Tina Cox, Paradise Garden Foundation board and the many long-time friends and fans of Howard who have come together behind the shared purpose to honor his legacy and faithfully share Paradise Garden and its iconic World's Folk Art Church with the next generation."
Paradise Garden Foundation is working on multifaceted plans for the structure that will be announced at a later date. But Cox makes clear that it will be used to extend Howard Finster's mission of service -- to the local, regional and national communities.
In the purchase, Paradise Garden Foundation also assumes ownership of two desks featuring Howard Finster murals as well as the 1976 Lincoln Continental that the artist drove. The car has not been cranked in three decades. The foundation plans to add it to Paradise Garden's public display.