Monday, October 12, 2014
On Sunday we toured several historic Georgia communities, including one with family ties. After spending some family time with Glynda and Houston at his house in Athens, we decided to head out for more exploring.
After a big breakfast we headed south on Highway 441. Just southwest of Watkinsville we came to the area’s Heritage Park. The first building you see was the old Central School, which used to be on Colham Ferry Road.
I remember seeing this old school years ago when on my way to visit Houston. It was in a completely run down state back then, and I had assumed that the building had finally fallen in on itself. I was pleased to learn that it had been salvaged.
The building appeared to be in great shape. I was hoping to get inside for a view, but it was locked. I used the GoPro to capture a few photos of the interior.
The plan was to add other historic buildings, including log cabins, etc. Houston things that they may have run out of money for this part of the project, since the only historic building is the old school.
That’s not all there is to the park, though. In addition to Central School there is a large open air arena that hosts a variety of events. There are also mountain bike and hiking trails that go all the way down to the Appalachee River.
From the Heritage Park we continued on down 441. On Sidwell Road, just north of the community of Appalachee, we spotted a fire tower. We turned onto Sidwell to investigate.
The tower was in excellent shape, and the first thing that we noticed was that the stairs go all the way to the ground. It was very tempting to jump the fence and go climb the thing. We thought about that long and hard, but since we had a full agenda, we decided not to go for it. However, we know it’s there, and the next time I’m down this way that might just have to happen.
Not far from the fire tower was the community of Apalachee. Here we found another school and an old church, Apalachee Methodist Church.
Glynda had second thoughts about the school. She said it looked more like a house, and wondered if it was a residence. I was sure that it wasn’t, and really wished I could get a view inside. This was the best I could do.
Just down from the school and brick Methodist church was the white framed Apalachee Baptist Church.
Next up, was Madison, Georgia, “The Town Sherman Didn’t Burn.” We drove straight to the square and found a place to park. There we wandered around, taking photos of the interesting architecture. The town and many of the businesses had autumn displays.
While Glynda did some shopping, Houston and I continued on around the square until we got to the dramatic Morgan County Courthouse.
In front of the courthouse was a stone version of E. M. Viquesney’s “Spirit of the American Doughboy.”
Next to the courthouse was the historic Rogers House and gardens. Houston and I balked at the tour prices, but did enjoy photographing the flowers.
Glynda rejoined us and we continued on around the square. Across from the courthouse was a hysterical marker in honor of Oliver Hardy.
Back in the car we took a quick spin around the business areas just beyond the square. It looks like lots of the historic buildings had been repurposed as businesses, restaurants, and condos. I was impressed with the vitality of the area. It looked like there were some excellent places to eat, and I wouldn’t mind coming back sometime.
Continuing on down Highway 441 west of the square we passed an amazing array of antebellum homes. We couldn’t point the cameras fast enough. Partially it was because this was a main travel route and we were holding up traffic, and partially because there were just so many.
Along this street we came to one of the most dramatic schools I’ve seen. The Madison Graded School now serves as the Madison-Morgan Cultural Center. We pulled into the parking lot to take some photos.
The school is an 1895 Romanesque Revival building. The belltower was pretty amazing, as were other architectural details. Here we were willing to pay for a tour. Alas, it was closed on Mondays.
We continued on, exploring the massive houses. We did come across a couple of amusing signs along the way.
On a side street not far from the city cemetery we spotted another old school building. I couldn’t identify this, even using GNIS after we had gotten back. It looks like the old school was now in use as a private residence.
We left Madison on Highway 441, continuing south. About twelve miles south of Madison we saw signs for the Rock Eagle Effigy Mound, and had to explore. The mound was built anywhere from 1000-3000 years from local quartzite, and is roughly in the shape of an eagle. In addition to the eagle mound there is a 4H camp on the property.
The mound was interesting, but more appealing to me was the CCC-constructed observation tower, built of gray granite in the 1930s.
A winding wooden staircase led up to three levels above the ground level. Windows provided views in all directions.
The top level, the fourth floor, had spectacular arched windows with views all around.
Houston and I both wanted this structure on our properties. We thought it would be a great place for parties, or to set up a study, etc., etc. We also decided that it would be a great place for a portrait, so we posed in various places.
We left Rock Eagle and continued on toward Eatonton. Along the way we paused for a few sights that caught our attention.
Eatonton is the birthplace of several notables, including author Alice Walker (“The Color Purple”), Joel Chandler Harris, who created the “Uncle Remus” stories, and Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-Fil-A. Houston said that somewhere in the town was an Uncle Remus museum, and that the town had lots of statuary from the tales. We drove into the town searching, but first a couple more interesting homes caught our eye.
We didn’t find the museum, but we did park on the town square and photographed the imposing Putnam County Courthouse. On the grounds was a Brer Rabbit Statue. Of course, there was the obligatory Confederate Memorial on the square.
We didn’t explore the rest of the town very much. Eatonton didn’t strike me as having as much vibrancy as Madison. Also, it was time to head back to Greenville. I had a Chorale rehearsal that evening, and had to get back. We drove rather quickly back across country. As we passed interesting sites I made a mental note of places I wanted to revisit. In all, though, it was a great two days exploring parts of Georgia with my brother and sister. Lots more to see and do there.