Hancock County Courthouse Rededication, Sparta

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I spent many good times in Hancock County when I was a student at Georgia College and still visit at least once a year to explore its wonderful architecture. I was devastated when I learned that their historic courthouse had been consumed by fire on 11 August 2014. But thanks to the untiring determination of Commission Chairman Sistie Hudson, Her Majesty, as the courthouse is often called, rose from the ashes.

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Two years to the day after the fire I made my way to Sparta to attend the rededication ceremony. At a time when many counties are building generic government facilities, Hancock County made sure their “new” courthouse would pay homage to the original. It’s nearly identical. Thanks largely to assistance from the insurance fund of the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia, the $7 million project was executed wonderfully, and should stand as an example to other counties as to how to deal with such crises in the future.

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The clouds moved in just as we reached Sparta. But it never rained. A large crowd was already gathered and it just kept growing. There was a sense of pride and community that one rarely sees these days.

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Politicians were on hand, along with the public, to christen the new and improved courthouse.

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Former Congressman and Hancock County native Buddy Darden

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Putnam County Commissioner Billy Webster.

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Hancock County Commission Chairman Sistie Hudson.

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After speeches were made and a benediction given, the clouds slowly began to clear.

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The future looks great for Her Majesty and Hancock County.

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The photos that follow are random images of people at the ceremony. One of the things I took away from this day was a great sense of community pride, and that’s reassuring in these divisive times.

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Restoration of Sayre-Alford House, Sparta

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One of the “Twin Houses of Sparta”, which was long in a state of neglect and disrepair, the Sayre-Alford House (circa 1829) has been beautifully restored by architect Ben Carter. The image below is from 2011.

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LaFayette-Baxter-Powell House, Circa 1820, Sparta

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Sparta Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

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Visionary Artist Johnny Culver, Sparta

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When I was in Sparta to photograph the rededication of the Hancock County Courthouse, I met this gentleman. John “Johnny” Culver is a visionary artist who came back to his hometown of Sparta in 2000 after living in the Atlanta for a time. While there, he suffered a nervous breakdown at the age of 20, after a failed relationship. He told me that creating the art gave him the ability to come back from that and he was very clear that God gets all the credit.

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He works in paint and ink and on every imaginable surface. I also feel lucky, since he told me he does not usually allow photographs. I found a few images of him online from an article by Tom Patterson and a piece by Fred Scruton and one or two from his London-based gallerist, but that was it. I’m so glad we made a connection and that he placed the trust in me to share.

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All Art Objects Pictured are © John Culver, Sparta, Georgia

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Abandoned Farmhouse, Newton County

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Thanks to Craig Skinner for showing me this property, between Mansfield and Newborn.

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What was once the main house of a large working farm was later used as a tenant residence.

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I believe it was occupied until the 1980s.

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Blackwell Grocery, Mansfield

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It’s not very often that I find a place like this. Blackwell Grocery, though, is the real deal. It’s a grocery store located in a hundred-year-old building in a small downtown, and it’s without pretense. Today, most places like this are made to look old and sell specialty items that are more geared to tourists than normal folk. Not so Blackwell Grocery. For over thirty years they’ve been a staple in Mansfield but they plan on building in a new location soon.

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I don’t know when I’ve seen hand-written signs in a grocery store. And there were just four aisles, if I recall correctly.

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They don’t have as much as the big box stores, but they probably have anything you might need.

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Commercial Block, Mansfield

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I’m not sure what this structure originally served as, but it’s now occupied by Air Power, Inc., a leading distributor of specialized industrial equipment. The building has been nicely restored.

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