GEORGIA TOURIST INFORMATION: (404) 656-3590
Statehouse, (404) 656-2844
When James Oglethorpe landed in 1733 he chose the coastal town of Savannah as Georgia's capital. But after the Revolutionary War the capital moved four times: to Augusta in 1786, Louisville in 1796 and Milledgeville in 1897 before permanently settling in Atlanta in 1868. Still reeling from the ravages of the Civil War it was nearly impossible at that time to find funding for a new Capitol. It was not until 1883 that the General Assembly appropriated one million dollars, and on July 4, 1889 Governor John Brown dedicated the building to "the indomitable will and recuperative energies of this great people." The Capitol is styled in the Classical Renaissance design with an Indiana oolitic limestone exterior and a Georgia marble interior. It features a center dome rising 75 feet, covered in native Georgia gold (the original dome was of terra cotta and tin). The cupola above the dome supports a female statue holding a torch in one hand and a sword in the other. "Miss Freedom," as she's known, stands 15 feet and weighs 2000 pounds. Facing west, the front facade features a four-story portico with stone pediment supported by six Corinthian columns and engraved in Georgia's coat-of-arms. The interior reflects the Victorian style of its day with classical pilasters and oak paneling. The Rotunda is flanked by two wings, each with a grand staircase and three-story atrium crowned by clerestory windows that cast varying beams of light across the floor as the sun makes its way westward. The Georgia Capitol was one of the earliest public buildings with elevators, central heat, and electric lights.
The Carter Center: Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum, (404) 331-0296
The Carter Presidential Library, Museum and Political Center are situated on a tranquil green in the midst of urban Atlanta. Reflecting pools, fountains, ponds and Japanese gardens make it appear an oasis of optimism amid city strife. Inside the museum is an extensive photographic exhibit chronicling the life of former President Jimmy Carter as he traveled from a dirt road in Plains to the inaugural walk down Pennsylvania Avenue. In the museum, visitors can partake in a Town Hall meeting and choose from a series of questions, push the button and a video of Carter appears with his answer to the selected question. Other exhibit rooms show such things as his Campaign Headquarters with television sets broadcasting debates, commercials and speeches. The Iran-hostage exhibit details the long national kidnapping. The Gifts of State Exhibit showcases some of the lavish gifts received from foreign dignitaries. The Formal Presidential Dinner Exhibit displays a table set in expectation of a formal state dinner. And the Oval Office Exhibit is a complete replica of the Presidential suite during the time when Carter was president. An audio voiceover takes the listener back in time to 1978.
Tip: In addition to a great collection of books on Jimmy Carter, or written by Jimmy Carter hemelf, the gift shop sells replicas of Presidential dinnerware with the exact patterns from many of the former presidents. Take home a piece of dinnerware from any former president, from Thomas Jefferson to Rutherford B. Hayes.
Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, (404) 331-3919
The Visitor Center at the Martin Luther King National Historic Site shows a photographic exhibit of King's life and work as well as a constantly streaming video of his famous speeches, including the "I Have A Dream" speech. From here, visitors can tour King's boyhood home and the neighborhood where he grew up. The neighborhood, called "Sweet Auburn" was a block of Victorian homes owned by well-to-do blacks during the 1920s. After touring King's home, one may walk a block away and visit the church where King co-preached with his father, and the shrine recently constructed to honor the slain black leader. The shrine, an oblong swimming pool with King's white marble tomb jutting out on a pedestal, makes the tomb seem to be floating on the pool. It is a strange place: part reflecting pool, part gravesite. Beside the shrine is the famous Ebenezer Baptist Church, founded by King's maternal grandfather. When he died King's father became the preacher, and Martin Junior co-preached with Martin Senior before moving on to his own parish in Montgomery. This church is also the site where King's mother was shot and killed in 1974 while playing the organ during a Sunday service.
Atlanta Underground, (404) 523-2311
Next to the World of Coca-Cola Museum is what appears to be a large multi-story shopping mall, but the basement is part mall, part museum. Within the subterranean mall lies the remains of a former railroad. Built after the Civil War the railroad traffic grew increasingly year after year until the hub of its activity began to choke the center of Atlanta. Rather than dismantle the station, viaducts were built over the tracks, moving the traffic up and out over the city. Today, while browsing through the modern retailers, shoppers can see remnants from the old railroad tracks, the facades from some of 19th century retailers who had catered to former rail travelers, and other railroad memorabilia.
Atlanta Cyclorama, (404) 523-2311
The Battle of Atlanta is vividly recreated in a massive circular painting and diorama. Visitors experience this horrendous Civil War conflict from a revolving 184-seat platform. The story begins on a blistering hot day in mid-July 1864 and is detailed through narrated diary entries, with special effect lighting and music.
Gone with the Wind Movie Museum at the Margaret Mitchell House, (404) 624-1071
Housed in the two-story midtown Atlanta home of Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone with the Wind, the museum contains the portrait of Scarlett and the actual Tara doorway from the set of the Academy Award-winning film version of the book. A guided tour of the home provides a glimpse into the author's life, herself a champion of human rights, and suggests possible reasons for her writing this epic novel.
MILLEDGEVILLE (912) 452-4687 or (800) 653-1804
The birthplace of author Flannery O'Connor, and comedian Oliver Hardy, Milledgeville holds the additional distinction of being one of the few cities in the nation to have been founded, designed, and laid out for the sole purpose of serving as a state capital. Today the town is the centerpiece of the Antebellum Trail, Route 441, which begins in Athens and ends in Macon. Many of the towns along this route have charming historic districts and marvelous antebellum mansions. Since Milledgeville served as the state capital from 1803-1868, (this is where Georgia seceded from the Union), we opted to stay in Milledgeville to enjoy the following attractions:
Old State Capitol
The Old State Capitol, (now on the campus of Georgia's Military College, which grew around the the old building), is a gray limestone Gothic structure that appears more like a fortress than a statehouse. An enormous arched gate made from the bricks of the old arsenal destroyed by Sherman, leads visitors down a long, straight driveway to the front facade dominated by a medieval-like clock tower. Currently being restored to its appearance at the time when Georgia seceded from the Union, it will reopen in October with an extravagant event. The townspeople will be reenacting the famous 1825 visit of the Marquis de Lafayette, following every item on his original agenda, including his coming down the river, being met by the mayor, followed by a parade. Formal balls, fireworks, and even the southern BBQ, which Lafayette was treated to on his visit here are all planned for this exciting event.
St. Stephen's Episcopal Church
During the Civil War when Sherman's troops destroyed the arsenal, the explosion destroyed many other objects nearby, including blowing the roof off the 1843 St. Stephens' Church. While stationed in occupied Milledgeville, Union troops poured sorghum down the pipes of church's organ to prevent its being used to rally Confederate sympathizers. A restoration effort after the war brought to the church gifts of hand-carved chancel furniture, a chancel window of Old English glass, a new Gothic roof, and new walls and ceilings made of beaded boards. These additions transformed the simple, cottage-like structure into the elegant Carpenter Gothic structure it is today.
Old Governor's Mansion
On a shady street in a thickly settled neighborhood stands a imposing Greek Revival mansion, the former home to Georgia's governors from 1839-1868. A magnificent creme-colored building with four large Doric columns, standing like sentries before the front door, it was spared Sherman's torch and is open today for guided tours of its high-domed interior furnished in period antiques.
Lockerly Aboretum and Mansion
Founded in 1966 as an outdoor horticultural laboratory, the arboretum showcases flora specimens native to the Piedmont area. Primarily landscaped in native trees and shrubs, the lovely wooded walking trail frequently opens to beautiful perennial gardens, such as herb gardens, Iris gardens, camelia gardens and butterfly gardens. In the midst of the walking trail is a picnic area by a pond, a lovely oasis adorned with an old gazebo and an old-fashioned water pump. After walking the trail, this picnic oasis and the cool water from the water pump offer heavenly relief from a long, hot walk. Beyond its natural beauty the arboretum also contains geologic and fossil displays and a unique Woods Museum, a cabin-in-the-woods structure filled with fantastic educational displays about all kinds of trees and their different personalities. Tree-lovers can see and feel the difference between chestnut and walnut, for example. This garden not only offers a spiritual retreat, but stimulates the mind with fascinating facts about the life of the woods.
Tip: Allow enough time, to tour the Lockerly mansion, a huge, 1839 antebellum plantation estate located beside the Lockerly Arboretum.
STONE MOUNTAIN PARK (770) 498-5702
Stone Mountain Park is a 3200-acre recreational and historic park, featuring a championship golf course, an antique car museum, a petting zoo, beaches, picnic areas, riverboat cruises, scenic skylifts and scenic railroads, with the park's centerpiece being the colossal equestrian sculpture, The Confederate Memorial, carved on the stony face of the gray granite Stone Mountain. The best place to begin the day's adventure is Memorial Hall, which shows a videotape of the mountain's geological makeup, its history, and a tour of the recreational facilities within the park.
Stone Mountain, a massive dome of solid granite rises 825 feet above the surrounding plain. It is said to be the largest solid block of granite in the world. Covering 583 acres, this 300-million-year-old monolith is surprisingly easy to climb. Sprawling gradually like a whale hump it can be easily scaled by following the park's 1.3 mile trail or, one may opt for the more encompassing 5-mile trail that covers the circumference of this huge, gray whale-back rock. Looking closely, one can see rivulets of red streaming down the face of the mountain, like tears of blood. The red is natural garnet. Of course, the main feature of Stone Mountain is the Confederate Memorial, a colossal carving of the three most prominent Confederate leaders on horseback: Jefferson Davis, General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, and General Robert E. Lee. The height of the Lee figure alone is nine stories while the entire sculpture rests in an oval niche the size of a full city block. They say a 6 ft. man can fit in the horse's mouth. Legend has it that the workers on the sculpture used to take cover inside the horse's mouth when it rained. Started in 1915 by the famous sculptor Gutzon Borglum (who had yet to begin his famous Mount Rushmore project), work on this massive artistic endeavor was intermittent. Interrupted by two world wars, it was not fully complete until 1970. Sprawling directly below the sculpture is a long green lawn with side alcoves dedicated to each of the Confederate States presenting its own mini-memorial to the Confederacy.
The Bells of Stone Mountain
Featured in the 1963 World's Fair, this 13-story bell tower, rising from the lake at Stone Mountain Park, uses miniature bell-tone rods and amplification to create its 732 bell sounds, which can be heard chiming everyday at noon and four o'clock.
OUR CAMPSITE FOR THE WEEK
Riverside Estates Travel-Trailer Park, Covington (770) 787-3707
Some RV Parks have a friendly host, or at least helpful hosts, but here at Riverside, the host is more than friendly, more than helpful. Barry seems to really love his job. He's always happy to see you and always eager to help satisfy all requests. His policy is "never say no to a customer." It's truly refreshing to have one's request so readily and happily tended to. The campground itself, along the historic Yellow River, is enormous. A Historic Marker less than a half mile from Riverside Estates describes the scene where, during the Civil War, Union troops built pontoon bridges to get across. Unfortunately the banks along the river are overgrown, and campers can only gain access to the Yellow river by going through brush and overgrowth. But it's nice to know one is so close to history. The park's swimming pool is large and after six o'clock in the evening, is reserved for "adults only." A lovely treat, knowing one can go for a relaxing, quiet swim in the evening without fear of cannonballs. Most of the clientele here are itinerant workers, staying for months, possibly years, which gives the place a very neighborly feel to it. Unlike most RV parks where people stay a day or maybe a week, here you know you'll see your neighbor tomorrow, so you tend to be more friendly and courteous than usual. The rates are very reasonable and restrooms are clean and well-maintained.