The builder of Milky Way Farm, Franklin C. Mars, was the founder of Mars Candies Incorporated, maker of the famous Milky Way candy bar for which the estate was named. Mars and his wife, Ethel V. Mars, came to Tennessee from Chicago in 1930 to establish a southern office of Mars Candies in Nashville. Soon afterwards the Mars purchased twenty-eight hundred acres eight miles north of Pulaski along U.S. Highway 31, where they began to develop plans for their home and a breeding farm for thoroughbred race horses and Hereford cattle. Mars hired architect James F. Drake to design the buildings and contracted local businessmen and farmers for supplies and labor to build Milky Way Farm. At the height of the construction work between 1931 and 1933, around eight hundred men were employed by Mars. During the Great Depression, Milky Way Farm was the largest employer in Giles County.
The Tudor Revival house, standing among a grove of well-established magnolia trees, was designed for entertaining. A living room with exposed beams and a forty-foot ceiling, a dining room that boasted the largest private dining table in the state, along with twenty-one bedrooms and fifteen bathrooms accommodated the constant flow of guests. A swimming pool and landscaped grounds added to the grandeur of the estate. The groundskeeper’s house, several barns, including one of octagonal design, stables, well-houses, and other outbuildings are extant. Native limestone was used as a primary or secondary building material in most of the farm’s buildings.
Franklin Mars died in 1934 and was buried in a mausoleum on the estate. Ethel Mars continued with the plans she and her husband had made. The farm produced prize-winning cattle, and Milky Way Farm’s racing colors made their first appearance in 1934. In 1936, the stable was a leading turf winner in the United States. Over the next few years, horses bred and trained at the farm were among the leaders in many races. Milky Way’s Galladion won the Kentucky Derby in 1940. Ethel Mars’s ill health caused her to gradually dispose of the thoroughbred stock. When she died in 1945, Milky Way Farm was sold. Franklin and Ethel Mars are now buried in Chicago, though the remains of the elaborate mausoleum on the farm still stand.
Milky Way Farm is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is significant for its sustaining employment of Giles County residents during the Great Depression, for its association with Franklin C. Mars, and for the architectural importance of the Tudor Revival house, stables, barns, and other outbuildings. The property was purchased in 2007 by New Horizons Communities of Port Royal, South Carolina, which plans to develop the farm into a luxury community of nine hundred homes with polo grounds, golf course, and equestrian trails. A spokesperson for New Horizons affirms that the development plan will preserve the manor house, horse track, and as many of the extant buildings as possible.