Tag Archives: North Georgia Superlatives

Central State Hospital, Milledgeville

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.

 

 

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Filed under --BALDWIN COUNTY GA--, Milledgeville GA

Indian Spring Hotel, 1823, Butts County

The first section of the Indian Spring Hotel was built as an inn by William McIntosh, who operated it with his cousin Joel Bailey. McIntosh, a half-Scot half-Native American and the cousin of Governor George M. Troup, was Chief of the Coweta band of Creek Indians; he was also the owner of over 70 slaves. The two-story addition which gave the hotel its present appearance was completed in 1825, the year McIntosh signed the Treaty of Indian Springs, ceding much of the historically Creek lands to white settlers. His role in this treaty, viewed unfavorably by a majority of Creeks, lead to McIntosh’s subsequent execution. The addition included a tavern known as the Treaty Room and a large ballroom. Significantly, the McIntosh Inn is  the only known antebellum mineral springs hotel still standing in Georgia. Mineral springs resorts were as popular in Georgia in the 19th century as coastal resorts are in the modern era. In 1850, the property was purchased by the Varner family, who owned and operated it as the Varner House, a nationally famous resort. The Varner descendants sold it to J. H. Elliot in 1953. Today, the Indian Spring Hotel/Museum is open on weekends between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

National Register of Historic Places

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Filed under --BUTTS COUNTY GA--, Flovilla GA, Indian Springs GA

Fresh Air Barbecue, Jackson

Dr. Joel Watkins began selling barbecue here in 1929, making it the oldest pit-cooked barbecue establishment in Georgia still in its original location. Upon Dr. Watkins’ death in 1945, the business was purchased by longtime manager, George W. “Toots” Caston, who is credited with making Fresh Air Barbecue into the institution it is today. Caston made improvements to the cooking process, the sauce, and the Brunswick stew recipe and expanded the business from a drive-in to a dine-in. Even the coming of I-75 couldn’t keep people away from Fresh Air, with many travelers taking the exit just to experience the legendary fare of the “Barbecue Place”. Still boasting one of the shortest menus in the business, there are no frills here, just barbecue, Brunswick stew, pickles and potato chips, and pecan, lemon or Reese’s pie for desert if you need something sweet for the road. And you can buy a whole ham if you’d like.  There’s a Macon location today that has a few additional items, but you really should go to the original first.

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Filed under --BUTTS COUNTY GA--, Jackson GA

Columbia County Courthouse, 1856, Appling

Columbia County was created in 1790. The area was settled by Daniel Marshall and the Baptists in 1772. The dead town of Cobbham served briefly as the first county seat, followed by Kiokee, near the Savannah River. Because Kiokee was considered too far from much of the population to be a practical site, William Appling offered land for a new county seat and it was named in his honor. The first courthouse in Appling was built around 1793, followed by a more suitable structure in 1812. It served until the construction of the present courthouse in 1856.

Columbia County is perhaps unique in Georgia in that it has essentially two county seats. By the 1970s,  this courthouse was in a bad state of deterioration. Since the county was in the midst of a population boom and the majority of the population was clustered near Evans, the Appling courthouse was no longer adequate for housing all the offices of local government. Around 1980 a new Columbia County Government Center was constructed in Evans, with additional facilities following in the 1990s. Most functions of local government are now carried out there, while a few offices are maintained in this historic antebellum courthouse.  Some court proceedings are still held here, making it the oldest courthouse in the state still in use.

National Register of Historic Places

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Filed under --COLUMBIA COUNTY GA--, Appling GA

Kiokee Baptist Church, 1808, Appling

When Daniel Marshall established the oldest continuing* Baptist congregation in Georgia in 1772, it was a violation of the established laws of St. Paul’s Parish, contrary to the tenets of the Church of England, and he was soon arrested. Upon his release he continued the mission of the church and built the first meeting house at the site of present-day Appling. A new church known as Marshall’s Meeting House was built in 1789 near the banks of Kiokee Creek. By 1806 Marshall’s Meeting House was in bad disrepair and the congregation raised nearly $4000 for the construction of the present church, known as Kiokee Baptist Church, which was completed in 1808. A Mr. Danielly was the brick mason and brothers John and Hezekiah Bond did the carpentry. The congregation only used this church until 1827, when they again built a new church in Appling proper, likely to accommodate a growing membership. It served until it was destroyed by a tornado in 1875 with the congregation meeting in the courthouse until another church was built. A modern facility in Appling serves the church today, while the historic church is used for special events.

Daniel Marshall was a native of Connecticut and established Baptist churches in Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina and served as a missionary to the Native Americans. The Marshall family preached the gospel at Kiokee for sixty years. After Daniel’s service (1772-84), his son Abraham (1784-1819) succeeded him, followed by his grandson Jabez (1819-1832).

*-The first Baptist church established in Georgia was the Tuckaseeking Baptist Church in Effingham County. They were a Seventh Day Baptist congregation and were active from 1759 until about 1763, when persecution forced them out of Georgia. Never a common sect in Georgia, the Seventh Day Baptists claim just one congregation and one mission in the state today.

National Register of Historic Places

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Filed under --COLUMBIA COUNTY GA--, Appling GA