Built for Lewis Kenan, Magnolia Manor was the longtime home of Dr. Gustav Lawrence and later, the maiden sisters Lucetta and Roberta Lawrence.
This house is perhaps the most enigmatic in Milledgeville, due largely to its present derelict appearance. [It’s apparently more stable than the grounds would suggest]. Built by Joseph Lane for Samuel Rockwell (1788-1842), the house has also been known over time as Beauvoir and the Governor Johnson House. Rockwell, a native of Albany, New York, first practiced law in Savannah before establishing a practice in Milledgeville around 1828. He served as Inspector of the 3rd Division during the Creek Indian War of 1836.
Closely related, stylistically, to the Milledgeville Federal houses, Rockwell is more highly realized in form.
Among numerous owners throughout the history of the property, Governor Herschel Vespasian Johnson was perhaps its best known resident. As the commemorative slab of Georgia granite placed by the WPA and the UDC in 1936 notes, it was his summer home. Governor Johnson was notably the state’s most vocal opponent to secession but eventually came around, as borne out by the acquiescent quote, no doubt chosen by the UDC: “To Georgia, in my judgement, I owe primary allegiance.”
The house was documented by photographer L. D. Andrew for the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) in 1936, owned by the Ennis family at the time. Photo courtesy Library of Congress.
Thanks to Michael Massey for bringing this house to my attention.
National Register of Historic Places
Central Building [now known as the Powell Building], Central State Hospital, National Register of Historic Places
The Georgia Lunatic Asylum opened on the outskirts of Milledgeville in 1842, its name only slightly more benign than the original “Lunatic, Idiot and Epileptic Asylum” conjured at its establishment in 1837. The need for such a facility was precipitated by the social reform movements popular in the early 19th century and at first, especially under the guidance of Dr. Thomas A. Green, patients were treated as humanely as possible. Green was responsible for attempting to humanize the plight of the asylum’s population, removing chains and restraints and even taking meals with them. Within its next century, though, the institution occupied over 200 buildings on nearly 2000 acres. At its peak, there were nearly 13,000 souls residing here, making it the largest state mental institution in the nation.
Victorian Building, Central State Hospital
Unfortunately, after the Civil War, the institution experienced rapid growth, as many communities warehoused “undesirable” people from their communities to what was essentially a prison sentence at Milledgeville. This included thousands of veterans whose maladies deemed them impossible to treat in their resource-strained communities. This growth lead to a 100:1 physician to patient ratio that persisted for nearly a hundred years. In 1897, the facility came to be known as the Georgia State Sanitarium. But to most Georgians, it was simply known as “Milledgeville”. It was universally known in the state as a place to avoid. Walking the immense grounds today, one has to feel sorrow for the souls who were put away here, and a sense of anger at the horrible way we treated the mentally ill until the recent past.
Storehouse, Central State Hospital, National Register of Historic Places
By the 1960s, pharmaceutical advances helped reduce the number of patients who were subjected to such horrific treatments as electroshock therapy and lobotomies. For much of the 20th century, the institution was essentially an experimental laboratory of psychology, doing greater damage to its residents than good. The name of the property was changed to Central State Hospital in 1967 and by the 1970s, the population was in rapid decrease.
Auditorium, Central State Hospital
Today, fewer than 200 residents are in treatment here and a goal of phasing out the facility altogether is closer to reality. Most of the buildings are in ruin and while anyone is welcome to walk around the grounds, it’s illegal to enter any of the structures. A round-the-clock security team strictly enforces this mandate.
The structure to the right in the view above is Bailes Cobb, a popular locally-owned independent department store that’s been in business since 1929! Below (right) is The Art Center, a gallery and event space operated by the Hart Regional Arts Council.
Hartwell Commercial Historic District, National Register of Historic Places