The year was 1978. For three years, Martin and Marjie Truax had traversed North Georgia in search of mountain property just right for their family. When at last they found the perfect spot, tucked up in the northeast corner of Georgia, there wasn’t much to it.
“We had a wooden bridge and it would occasionally wash out,” recalls Marjie. “And there were five moonshine stills on the property.” But the couple fell in love with the scenic meadows, streams, cascading waterfall, nature trails and a mountaintop overlook from which you can see three states. It seemed appropriate that the family chose to name the place “Chota,” referring to an old Cherokee vision of “heaven on earth.”
Since the Truaxes had simply wanted a getaway to spend time with family and friends, the first building they constructed was a log cabin in 1981. Over the years additional buildings were added to accommodate more family and friends: a lodge, a pub, a banquet hall, guest cottages and — at the suggestion of a former monk — a chapel. Martin wasn’t so sure about the chapel idea until he heard about a man giving away about 20 church pews. “We built the chapel around the pews,” says Marjie.
Having traveled extensively in Italy, the Truaxes have incorporated a warm Tuscan flair into the building’s architecture. Even their Italian friends visit and say it feels like home. A close friend told the Truaxes it also felt like a wonderful place to get married. And so in 1995, the family began opening up their estate for weddings and other events, both social and corporate.
The Truaxes later spent three years enlarging the log cabin, finishing the project in 2005 — only to have it burn to the ground the very night it was completed. The lone surviving object was a portrait of Mary. While Martin and Marjie wondered at such bad luck, the resilient couple moved forward with a new building in the same footprint, christening it Villa Maria.
The legacy continues
To this day, Marjie appreciates what she has always loved about the property: “The peace and the effect it has on those who come here. People who are ‘Type A’ personalities start relaxing in ways they don’t in other places.” This tranquility applies as much to wedding parties as it does to guests of corporate and social events hosted here at Chota Falls Estate.
In August 2016, the Truax family brought in Ryan and Melissa Foley as investors and managing partners of the estate. The Foleys are excited carry on the heritage of this very special mountain retreat. “We’re entrusted with furthering the mission and values,” says Ryan, adding, “We look forward to continuing the great traditions that the Truax family has set in place.”