ABOVE PHOTO: Washington Historical Museum
By Renée S. Gordon
Georgia is divided into five distinct regions; the Appalachian Plateau, Blue Ridge, Coastal Plain, Piedmont and the Valley and Ridge. A unique animal population, landscape and vegetation shaped the culture, architecture and diet that characterize each area and no destination better features state-of-the-art sites and attractions, world-class accommodations and an exceptional and diverse culinary scene all filtered through the lens of the history of the state’s individual regions. exploregeorgia.org
Atlanta has, from its founding as Marthasville in 1836, been a hub for visitors. The city was also referred to as Terminus because it was located at the terminus of the Western & Atlantic rail line and later Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport supplanted the importance of the Western & Atlantic Railroad. The 4,700-acre airport is the busiest in the world with a three mile Automated People Mover that operates every two minutes and moves approximately 200,000 people daily. A number of non-stop flights from Philadelphia International are offered each day and flight time is less than 90 minutes from wheels up to wheels down. All Georgia journeys should begin with the first “A,” Atlanta because no matter how often you visit adventure awaits. #exploregeorgia
The 33-acre Atlanta History Center is an absolute must visit. The complex is situated in Buckhead and interprets Georgia’s legacy through two historic structures, the 22-acre Goizuetta Gardens, the Centennial Olympic Games Museum and Kenan Research Center. Both homes are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. atlantahistorycenter.com
Philip Schutze designed the Second Renaissance Revival Swan House in 1928 for Edward and Emily Inman. The house was named after the swan motifs found throughout the residence. The four-bedroom house boasts two elaborate entrances as well as other distinctive architectural features. The house opened to the public in 1967 with more than 90 percent of its original furnishings spanning more than 250-years. Highlights of an interior tour include the black and white tile in the downstairs hall, an octagonal breakfast room, handpainted English wallpaper in the dining room, the freestanding staircase and the sterling silver kitchen sink. The Swan House serves as the home of President Snow in “The Hunger Games” and fans are delighted to visit the second-floor area that features a display of props and film miscellany.
The plantation plain two story, Tullie Smith House is interpreted as the 1860’s Smith Family Farm. The home was constructed in 1840 by Robert Smith who farmed 200 acres along with his 11 slaves. Alterations of the original house took place in the 1870s and 1880s. Of particular note is a “traveler’s room” that was used to house people passing through the area. The house was restored in the 1970s and special programming includes Open House Experiences. Guests are invited to engage in conversation with costumed docents, both free and enslaved, and learn about life on a rural farm of the era. An on-site slave cabin houses exhibits and interprets aspects of slave culture.
“Turning Point: The American Civil War,” is exhibited in the, 9,200-sq-ft. DuBose Gallery. Displays are thematic and chronological and include more than 1,500 artifacts representing both sides of the conflict. On view are the Confederate flag that was taken down at the time of the city’s surrender, an original Union supply wagon, a Medal of Honor won by the United States Colored Troops and a pin carved by a Confederate soldier for his wife. It was carved from a piece of bone from his amputated limb. He died before she received it.
Atlanta is a foodie mecca and there are several specialty tours that introduce you to new restaurants, celebrate traditional venues and point out cultural and architectural treasures along the route. Atlanta Food Walks offers a 3.5-hour guided tour that provides tastings at every stop and an opportunity to meet the chef and owners of some of the city’s most iconic eateries. The two mile amble encompasses seven stops. The Downtown Southern Food Walk includes 15 tastings of Atlanta’s finest Southern cuisine including locations favored by Civil Rights leaders. Private food walks can be arranged and reservations are required. atlantafoodwalks.com
The Old Fourth Ward is home to Serpas, voted one of the “Best New Restaurants in America” in 2009 by GQ Magazine. Chef-owner Scott Serpas uses locally sourced foods to create culinary magic. The menu changes frequently to reflect ingredient availability. serpasrestaurant.com
Ideal accommodations can elevate a trip from good to great and the Westin Peachtree Plaza Downtown does just that. It is conveniently located to most major attractions, transportation and shopping. Newly renovated, the hotel offers outstanding city views from floor-to-ceiling windows in rooms and suites. The AAA 4-Diamond property provides all the standard amenities and designer linens, a Westin Heavenly Shower, Internet Access, business facilities and a 24-hour Westin Workout Fitness Studio. westinpeachtreeplazaatlanta.com
Our eastward sojourn will take us 150-miles and end in Albany, Georgia with city breaks along the way.
In 1785 the Georgia Legislature voted to endow an institution of higher learning and in 1801 a 5-man committee set out to locate an appropriate site. John Milledge purchased 633-acres for $4,000 on the Oconee River and donated it for the establishment of the university. The town was given the name Athens in honor of the Grecian center of learning and was incorporated in December of 1806. Parcels of land were sold off to finance construction of the school buildings.
Athens always had a substantial black presence. When the Civil War began almost 50 percent, the overall population of 1,892 were enslaved. One free black lived there. After the war many African Americans continued to live and work in the city and their history and legacy is memorialized annually during the cultural Hot Corner Festival. The festival events radiate from the corner of Washington and Hull Streets, the original Hot Corner and once the nexus of the African American business and entertainment district.
Athens is widely noted for its culture, cuisine and entertainment with so many venues that hard choices are called for. No matter how long your list, the Georgia Museum of Art must be at the top. The museum, the state’s official art museum, has been located on East Campus of the University of Georgia since 1982. It was expanded in 2011 and the 9,000 piece permanent collection is really superior in its diversity. Artworks indicating a purchase date between 1945-47 are part of the original collection of the founder. The adjacent Sculpture Garden hosts exhibitions of art by female sculptors only. uga.edu/gamuseum
Hotel Indigo is situated within a short walk of the downtown scene. The property features amazing amenities including the farm-to-table Madison Bar and Bistro and an art gallery showcasing works by regional artists. Hotel Indigo-Athens is LEED Gold Certified. indigoathens.com/Athens
Athens is recognized as one of the top organic food scenes in the nation and Athens Food Tours deftly highlight, not only the culinary scene, but also the city’s history and musical legacy. Participants are introduced to the entire spectrum of those who contribute to this special aspect of a visit to Athens, from farmers to chefs. Three-hour tours offer food, libations and entertainment at six to eight venues. This is a great way to get a real taste of Athens. georgiafoodtours.com/Athens
Additionally Georgia Food Tours offers Agro Cycle Tours that visit locally owned, organic and sustainable farms. Tours cover between 20 and 50-miles with a complete schedule of tours and tastings. Less athletic participants can follow along in a vehicle.Georgiafoodtours.com
Hugh Acheson is one of the most honored and awarded individuals for his innovative Southern food creations. Accolades include Food & Wine’s “2002 Best New Chef”, the Atlanta Journal Constitution 2007 “Restaurant of the Year Award”, and was the 2012 James Beard winner for Best Chef in the Southeast”. His flagship restaurant, Five & Ten, is located in the heart of Athens. fiveandten.com/#fiveandten
Creature Comforts Brewing Company is situated inside the 13,000-sq. ft. historic Snow Tire warehouse. The tables and bar are made of reclaimed wood from the original 1940’s structure and the building has won the Athens Heritage Foundation. CCBC is one-year old and has already won numerous awards for their craft brews including the Daily Mail’s designation as one of the “Best New Breweries in the U.S.” Brewery tours and tastings are offered. creaturecomfortsbeer.com/ #creaturebeer
Capitalizing on the fact that nearly everyone loves chocolate, brothers Nick and Peter Dale founded Condor Chocolates to produce specialty chocolates using a mixture of Ecuadorian cacao and locally sourced ingredients. Their caramel brownies are sure to satisfy any craving. condorchocolates.com
The Rooftop at the Georgia Theatre is a spectacular gathering place to drink and dine with a view. The Branded Butcher Restaurant, adjacent to the theater, presents a gourmet menu using local products with a twist. Diners must taste the grass‐fed BYO burgers, pulled pork tacos and fried chicken skin. All dishes are completely made in-house. georgiatheatre.com/rooftop/ #Branded_Butcher/#gatheatre
The Georgia Theater and The Foundry are two of Athens most prominent music venues. They have played host to such acts throughout the years as the Blind Boys of Alabama, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and the Police on their first American tour. Performance schedules are available online. thefoundryathens.com/#FoundryAthens
Washington, Georgia, in Wilkes County, was the first town in America chartered in honor of General George Washington. The settlement had been decreed in 1780, 100 acres were purchased, parcels of land were sold and a church and school were constructed. By the turn of the 18th-century the town was thriving due to its position as a stagecoach stop and in 1847 it became a railroad stop as well.
America’s wars played a significant role in Washington’s history. During the Revolution, the Battle of Kettle Creek took place on February 14, 1779 near what was to become Washington. The battle was extremely significant because a patriot militia, in their first battle, defeated the larger Loyalist forces, proved the determination of the Southerners to support the cause and forever broke the stranglehold the British had on the colony. The battlefield is free and open daily.
More than $500,000 in gold remained in the Confederate treasury as the Civil War drew to a close. In April 1865, the Confederate government was forced to abandon it’s capitol, Richmond, Virginia, and the Confederate Cabinet was forced to seek a place to stash the money. More than a month elapsed as the gold and the guards moved around. On May 5, 1865 Jefferson Davis and 14 officials held the final cabinet meeting of the Confederate States of America in Washington and the government was dissolved. A small portion of the treasure was seized from banks when Davis was captured, the North confiscated $100,000 and the remainder was never located. The last known location of the fortune was Washington and treasure hunters still seek it.
Washington is a charming town with an historic center and more than 100 antebellum homes. The heart of downtown is a square bordered by the courthouse and an eclectic collection of shops, restaurants and the Washington Welcome Center. The center is located near the square and provides information on sites, attractions and walking and driving tours. The fifth, 1904 courthouse, is the most recent replacement for the tavern room that served as the first courthouse in 1785. In the courthouse on the site in 1865 Davis signed the last official bills of the Confederacy. washingtonwilkes.org
Situated prominently at one end of the square is the nation’s only monument dedicated to the 5,000 black Revolutionary War soldiers who served in the Continental Army. Austin Dabney, an African American war hero, was a Washington resident. Because there were no known descriptions of Dabney the sculptor, Kinzey Branham, depicted the likeness of James Armistead on the monument. Armistead was a slave who was a spy in the service of General Lafayette. At the conclusion of the war he was freed, awarded a pension and took the surname Lafayette.
The oldest Museum House in Washington is the Washington Historical Museum. The 7,000-sq. ft., 1835 Federal-style house relates more than 200-years of regional history through photographs, displays, documents and dioramas. The house boasts the oldest wallpaper in the state, 13 doors and an unusual dry well on the lower level. A gallery on the second floor is dedicated to interpreting the area’s African American history and here visitors can learn the heroic stories of Austin Dabney and Mammy Kate. Additional highlights include pottery made by Dave the slave and an Eli Whitney cotton gin. historyofwilkes.org/sites‐historicalmuseum
Francis Willis established the Mary Willis Library, the state’s first public library, in 1888 in memory of his daughter. The high-Victorian building was designed by Edmund Lund and is noted for its stained glass windows depicting Shakespeare, Homer and Mary Willis.
We have traveled 94 miles from Atlanta and there are two additional “A” cities to visit. Next week we will spend some time with James Brown and Ray Charles. Information on all the cities can be located online. exploregeorgia.org
I wish you smooth travels!