ABOVE PHOTO: Albany’s Civil Rights Museum display
By Renée S. Gordon
“I’m gazing out the window
Of the St. James Hotel
And I know no one can sing the blues
Like Blind Willie McTell.”
–Bob Dylan 1983
Augusta, Georgia’s second largest city, occupies a site on the fall line where the Piedmont meets the Upper Coastal Plain on the western shore of the Savannah River. The city is the second oldest in Georgia, founded in 1736, but human settlement of the area dates back to more than 4,000-years ago. When Hernando de Soto arrived in 1540, he found the area populated by several native groups. The Savannah River was named after one of these tribes. exploregeorgia.org/#exploregeorgia
Carolina settlers had established a trading fort in what is now North Augusta. The native traders were unhappy with trading practices and when James Oglethorpe arrived in 1733, he obtained legislation that regulated trade and was perceived by the Indians to be more fair. Three years later, he ordered that a fort and a town be laid out. Noble Jones’s plan required 40 lots, four streets deep, three streets wide, laid out around a central square with an adjacent fort. The town was named in honor of Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha and served as Georgia’s capital from 1786-1795.
Oglethorpe’s original plan was for the Georgia colony to be a place of refuge for the poor and persecuted from England. Slavery was outlawed but the King of England granted permission to allow it in 1749 because the farmers claimed that they could not compete economically against farmers in the slaveholding colonies. The institution grew slowly at first but became very lucrative after the invention of the cotton gin. The census of 1860 indicates that 45 percent of Georgia’s population were enslaved.
Augusta played an important role in the Civil War due to its status as a transportation hub. The Augusta Canal powered mills and provided a route for transporting goods and the city’s railroad linked the eastern and western parts of the Confederacy. Because of the power source Colonel George Rains constructed the 22 structure Confederate Powder Works in 1862 along two miles on either side of the banks of the canal. This was the only complex erected and paid for by the Confederate States of America. Sherman, mistakenly believing that the city was better defended than it was, bypassed Augusta in his march to the sea. Visitaugusta.com
The Augusta Museum of History is a great place to begin your visit because it provides an overview of the history of the city. In “Augusta’s Story,” regional history is explored covering a 12,000-year period. “Celebrating a Grand Tradition, the Sport of Golf,” focuses on the history of the sport in Augusta, Life-sized sculptures of golf legends and a gallery dedicated to the evolution of golf equipment are displayed. The highlight of this exhibition is an authentic “Green Jacket” awarded to the winner of the Masters Tournament. This is probably your only opportunity to see one up close because only the current winner can remove it from the premises. It must be returned at the end of his reign and he can only wear one while visiting the Augusta National Clubhouse. In 1949, Green Jackets were awarded to all former winners and three years ago Horton Smith’s jacket, the 1934 winner, was sold at auction for $682,229, the most costly piece of golf memorabilia ever sold.
“The Godfather of Soul, Mr. James Brown: The Man, the Music and His Legacy” exhibition is displayed throughout several thematic galleries. His life and legacy are interpreted through videos, photographs, memorabilia and documents. Highlights are authentic stage outfits, including an iconic cape, and personal belongings. Brown had a minimum of six walk-in closets in his home and a complete professional level hair salon. He kept a Bible in each room open to his favorite passages and one of these is also on view. Plan to spend time in this gallery having a “funky good time.” augustamuseum.org/@augustamuseum
A 17 site driving tour brochure is available and includes both structures that played a role in his life but also his favorite eateries and performance spaces. The James Brown Statue is a perfect photo stop. The life-sized bronze statue captures him in mid-performance and visitors can join him atop the pedestal. Jamesbrownfamilyfdn.org/#loveaugusta
Advance reservations are required for a tour of Augusta aboard the Lady Liberty Historic Trolley Tour of Augusta. Narrated tours of the downtown area bring the city’s story to life. There are several photo stops and the narration is inclusive of all ethnicities and eras. During the tour stories are related about the statue of Oglethorpe on the Common, the Augusta Chronicle with archives that date back to 1790, the birthplace of Morehouse College and Springfield Baptist Church. (706) 724-4067
One of the most intriguing tales told along the way is that of the Haunted Pillar. A 100-ft. by 200-ft. marketplace stood downtown from 1830 until 1878. Legend has it that an itinerant preacher appeared one day and began to preach daily standing next to the pillar. Eventually he was made to move on but before he left he cursed the city saying that the marketplace would be destroyed and that pillar would be the only thing left standing. In February of 1878, a tornado leveled the entire structure, except for the pillar.
The Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History and Conference Center features Augusta’s Ebony Legacy, the story of renowned African Americans from the Central Savannah River region. Among those showcased are James Brown, Lawrence Fishburne, Butterfly McQueen and Frank Yerby. Yerby, possibly the least known, arguably had the greatest impact on American society. He was the first African American to earn $1,000,000 from his writing, and the first to have a novel made into a movie. He was inducted into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame in 2013.
No trip to Augusta is complete without a visit to the canal beginning with the 9,000-sq.-ft. Augusta Canal Discovery Center. This canal is the single remaining functioning industrial power canal still used as originally planned. Construction began in 1845 and was completed in 1850. It was designated a National Heritage Area in 1996. Augustacanal.com
Canal Boat Cruises are offered at the Augusta Canal National Heritage Area. The 65-ft.tour boats are the largest electric boats in the world and are designed to replicate early Piedmont vessels. The ride begins at the Headgates of the 14 mile canal and travels pass 14 sites with wildlife sightings along the route. @visitaugustaga
The Bee’s Knees is a local eatery with a broad-based menu featuring dishes comprised of local, seasonal foods. Menu items include vegan and vegetarian items. The dishes to order here are the tapas, regional seafood, organic tofu and pad Thai. beeskneestapas.com/@beeskneestapas
Jonathan Miegs originally built a two-story winter retreat, that is now the historic Partridge Inn, in the late 1800s. In 1910, it became a year-round hotel. After undergoing a number of additions and a recent $6-million renovation the Partridge Inn’s 144 rooms are once again modern luxury guestrooms with historic ambiance. partridgeinn.com
Bulloch County was founded in 1796, but it was not until George Sibbald donated 200 acres of land in 1801 that it could build a county seat. Statesborough was created in 1803 by the legislature. One year after the Civil War, the city was chartered and the spelling of the name was changed. During the Civil War Sherman marched through Statesboro and burned the courthouse and other buildings. Statesboro remade itself into a destination for highway travelers complete with restaurants, motels and shops.
Statesboro Regional Visitor Information Center is the home of the Museum on Main, a joint effort between Georgia Southern University and the Statesboro Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The museum is a large open area that is divided into thematic galleries that interpret the history of the city and region through artifacts, photographs, music and audio narration. Exhibitions will change and the current focal point of the displays is a 1920s turpentine wagon. The county’s music legacy is presented with an emphasis on Blind Willie McTell who, though not born in Statesboro, always claimed it as his home. It was there that he lived from the age of 9 and picked up his first six-string guitar, later to be replaced by his signature 12-string guitar. He penned “Statesboro Blues,” later covered by the Allman Brothers. Tours of the city include the Jaeckel Hotel steps where Willie began his career by playing for passers by. visitstatesboroga.com/@visitstatesboro
A display in the museum is dedicated to CMG Guitars, a locally owned factory that crafts affordable American guitars and repairs band and orchestra instruments. The guitars are handmade and are named after people the owners love. Their most popular color is Statesboro Blue and custom guitars are available. Guitars start at $799 and are created from African mahogany. Tours are offered. pladdmusic.com/CMGguitars.com
Calhoun Produce is a certified Georgia Agri‐tourism site. Visitors can be “agritained” with a farm tour, seasonal 7-acre corn maze and pick-your-own experience. You can also purchase products and taste strawberry delights including ice cream and shortcake. Cordele, Georgia. calhounproduce.com
Nelson Tift founded Albany in 1836 at the same time that the area’s cotton industry was taking off. He realized that transportation was crucial and he lobbied for an extension of the rail line and had a toll bridge built over the Flint River by Horace King, a former slave. King was in the act of building a nearby bridge and when he was not paid as expected he dismantled the bridge and brought it to Albany. It became the first documented prefabricated bridge. Visitalbanyga.com
Albany’s visitor center is located within the Bridge House, once used by Tift and the toll taker. The rear of the center opens out onto stunning views of the river and the three-mile Riverwalk. An orientation film, From the Heart of Southwest Georgia, is available for viewing. The best way to experience Albany is to download the Albany app and take a 28-site walking tour of the historic structures.
The Albany Civil Rights Institute is dedicated to the preservation and presentation of the legacy of southwest Georgia’s Civil Rights Movement. The tone is set in the lobby when visitors enter through doors designated by color. State-of-the-art exhibits are arranged chronologically and thematically with an emphasis on the role music played in the movement. albanycivilrightsinstitute.org
There are two accredited zoos in Georgia and Albany’s Chehaw Park Safari is one of them. The park’s mission includes the promotion of conservation, preservation and education. Visitors can board a wagon for a guided African Veldt Ride of the free-range safari park or meander through the specific animal areas. The current star of Chehaw is a charismatic Bactrian camel named Bogart (his father’s name was Humphrey). The trainer allows you to feed him and he really plays to the crowd. In addition to the zoo Chehaw offers camping, BMX, Disc Golf and the Wiregrass Express and a 20-minute train ride through the park. chehaw.org/@ChehawPark
Ray Charles Plaza showcases a life-size sculpture of the musician seated at a revolving piano. Music notes adorn the pavement, benches replicate piano keys and a soundtrack belts out his songs. You should visit the plaza at least twice, in daylight and darkness. The statue is lighted at night and seeing it is truly an experience.
The award-winning Merry Acres Inn was constructed in 1952. It features 110 rooms and suites, the Merry Acres Restaurant, the Manor House Pub and a complimentary shuttle. The property is convenient to all Albany attractions and the list of amenities is extensive. The inn is a favorite of Paula Deen. merryacres.com/@merryacresinn
White Oak Pastures, a 150-year old family owned farm, is located in Bluffton, Georgia. Self-guided and narrated tours interpret their use of fully transparent, fair, sustainable and humane practices including a slaughter system designed by Temple Grandin. There are six cabins that can be reserved by guests and on-farm dining in the Pavilion features the truest form of farm-to-table dining. The menu is creative, delicious and affordable. whiteoakpastures.com/@whiteoakpasture
We have reached the end of the Four “A” Trail and we missed as many sites as we visited, so we will have to come again. You can follow the trail we blazed or create your own using all the links provided. Georgia is a year-round destination and remember, it is less than a 90-minute flight away.
I wish you smooth travels!
Peru has been transported to the National Mall this summer when the Smithsonian Institute presents the 48th annual Folklife Festival, “Perú: Pachamama.” The country’s three distinct regions, coast, highlands and mountains, will be represented by 120 artisans, cooks, dancers, musicians and craftsmen selected for their adherence to and ability to convey Perú’s cultural traditions. Visitors can shop, eat, participate and watch performances scheduled throughout the day. This is a unique opportunity to immerse yourself and your family into the Peruvian culture and all you need do is step onto the Mall and into another country. Best of all, it is a free event. The festival is held from June 24th- 28th and July 1st -5th. www.Promperu.gob.pe and www.festival.si.edu/2015/peru/smithsonian
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