Posts Tagged ‘Georgia’

Meandering through Milledgeville

January 18, 2013

This week in 1861, Georgia’s Secession Convention began meeting in the then-state capital of Milledgeville, center of state government from 1804-68. While the delegates voted to secede within three days, on Jan. 19 — an event marked with huge bonfires and wild parties — they stayed in session through March to finish writing a new Georgia Constitution.

They met, as you’d expect, in the old state capitol, which still exists today. Dominating the quad of Georgia Military College, it’s currently — and appropriately — the Old Capitol Museum, open to the public and supposedly the oldest public Gothic Revival building in America.

The Old Capitol Museum, former statehouse

The Old Capitol Museum, former statehouse

Interestingly, while Union troops ransacked the Capitol building during Sherman’s “March to the Sea,” they didn’t actually try to burn it. Indeed, most of Milledgeville escaped the torch, Sherman’s destruction limited to mostly military targets such as ammunition and train depots. (However, honey was poured down the organ pipes at one chapel.)

Speaking of Sherman, during his brief stay in Milledgeville he commandeered the old Governor’s Mansion as his personal headquarters. Today you can tour the huge, ornate Mansion, commonly considered one of the best examples of High Greek Revival architecture remaining in the U.S.

The Old Governors Mansion, with scaffolding from renovation

The Old Governors Mansion, with scaffolding from renovation

The old Governor’s Mansion today is operated by Milledgeville’s main employer, Georgia College and State University, one of the state’s leading public higher education institutions. However, GCSU is best known to the world as the alma mater of one of America’s greatest writers – and certainly one of the South’s – the altogether unique and fascinating Flannery O’Connor.

Though born and raised in Savannah, O’Connor moved in with her mother in Milledgeville after finding out she was stricken with lupus. Throughout her writing career, O’Connor’s work was an intriguing blend of Savannah’s notable Irish Catholic culture and inland Georgia’s Protestant folkways.

GCSU hosts the “O’Connor Room” of its main campus museum, which contains some charming memorabilia from her time at the college, where she was of course editor of the yearbook. Here I am with the typewriter on which she did most of her writing:

Me and Flannery's typewriter

Me and Flannery’s typewriter

The O’Connor/Cline family was prominent in Milledgeville. Here’s the handsome “Milledgeville Federal” house which belonged to the family, a mere stone’s throw from the Governor’s Mansion itself.

The Cline House downtown

The Cline House downtown

Milledgeville got sleepy after the Civil War, when the state capital was moved to up-and-coming Atlanta in a self-conscious effort to leave behind the antebellum years and embrace the “New South.” Here’s a nice downtown building, actually the oldest Masonic Hall in Georgia:

Georgia's oldest Masonic building

Georgia’s oldest Masonic building

But the main stop by far for any O’Connor fan is a bit north of downtown Milledgeville, at the farm called Andalusia. Currently run by a nonprofit and located on 500 acres of ancestral O’Connor/Cline land, Andalusia features a main house and several outbuildings. In addition to touring the grounds, you can tour the main house where O’Connor wrote almost all her major work, downstairs in a converted parlor to keep her from climbing stairs in her weakened state. Of course there’s a charming gift shop with many locally-produced O’Connor-related items not available anywhere else.

The main house at Andalusia, the O'Connor farm

The main house at Andalusia, the O’Connor farm

While Flannery O’Connor is without doubt Milledgeville’s most famous resident – quite a statement considering how long it was the state capital – for many Georgians the word “Milledgeville” is synonymous with the notorious Central State Hospital, which for much of the 20th Century was the largest insane asylum in the world.

It’s also one of the oldest, begun in the 1830s in an attempt to formalize the treatment of the mentally ill, called “lunatics” in the terminology of the day. Well-intentioned though it may have been, Central State eventually became overpopulated and poorly managed, becoming a byword for cruelty and neglect. Over the decades tens of thousands of patients who died in the course of confinement and “treatment” were buried in unmarked graves on the sprawling campus.

Today, Central State Hospital has been dramatically downscaled by budget cuts and a more modernized approach to mental health. But the old buildings still remain – off limits to the public and closely watched by security – as spooky, grandiose reminders of a time thankfully gone by.

A building at Central State Hospital, the old "Lunatic Asylum"

A building at Central State Hospital, the old “Lunatic Asylum”

You can read more about Milledgeville and Middle Georgia in my next Moon guidebook, Moon Georgia, coming out in Fall 2013….

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Victory Feed & Seed: Local and long-lived

May 18, 2011

I want to give a shout-out to a wonderful local business in Savannah which is continuing the tradition of family ownership through good times and bad.

Victory Feed & Seed is at the intersection of Victory Drive and Bull Street — which is actually more of a five-points style intersection because of the railroad tracks which cut diagonally through it. It’s a picturesque, red-brick Main Street sort of setting for this Main Street sort of business, which has been in the local Royal family for decades.

Victory Feed & Seed at Bull & Victory in Savannah

My wife Sonja and I were there the other day, as is our occasional habit, picking up some plants for our planters at the house. (Victory Feed & Seed also sells all kinds of pet supplies, from food to flea treatments. For those plagued with less desirable critters they also have a much better selection of mouse/rat control products than Home Depot.)

Plants arrayed on the sidewalk out front

While Sonja looked around, I spoke briefly with Twyla Royal, current owner. She said the key to their success in a bad economy seemingly designed for only the largest multinational corporations to survive is to “make just enough to get by. We don’t overextend ourselves and try to get bigger and bigger. We make do with what we have and make just enough to keep it all going.”

Twyla Royal, background, watering the inventory

As testament to the long history and tight-knit family ownership of Victory Feed & Seed, there’s an impromptu memorial in concrete out front in honor of Twyla’s father William Royal, who in his elder years would while away the days at the shop seated just outside the front door, shaded by the store awning, greeting customers and passersby.

Mr. Royal passed away in October 2010 aged 81. The railroad tracks next to his store are symbolic in a way; before opening the store he worked for years as a car inspector for Seaboard Coastline.

Imprompu memorial to where Mr. Royal sat for years greeting customers

Oh, and the plants we got at Victory Feed & Seed worked out great too. While our pansies survived the harsh winter in excellent fashion — whoever decided to equate “pansy” with “weak” obviously didn’t know much about pansies — they started looking a little worse for wear with the onset of springtime heat. We decided to change them out for some new plants. Here’s the new look:

‘Meaningful Milk’ for Earth Day

April 26, 2011

Nice screen capture from the CNN 'Meaningful Milk' Earth Day segment

This past Earth Day, CNN ran a shortish but very well-done segment on Country Gardens Farm and Nursery in Newnan, GA. They do organic milk and totally free range chickens — about 200 of them to be exact, which are a real hoot to watch as they peck around the place.

The takeaway here for me was the reliance on Jerseys for the delicious high butterfat content of their milk. Most dairy farms rely on the much larger Holsteins (the “Chik-Fil-A” black and white cows) because A) each Holstein cow can make an incredibly huge boatload of milk; and B) the style now is for a lower fat product.

Still, there is nothin’ like the creamy taste of good old-fashioned Jersey milk, which was the type of milk we dealt in at the old Morekis Dairy back in the day.

(Another plus for the Jerseys is they do well in the Southern heat…)

Rare snow on the farm

March 19, 2010

Man! I just found out something crazy.

If you aren’t familiar with weather patterns in Savannah and the Lowcountry coast, let’s just say that snow is usually something we see on TV. This year we had the first measurable snowfall in Savannah — a mushy affair that most midwesterners would barely recognize as such — in 21 years.

It happened the night of Feb. 12-13, 2010.

Here are a couple of shots of what the old photos say is the “first snow” on the Morekis dairy farm on White Bluff Road. It happened in 1958 on…. you guessed it,  February 12-13.

Here is a shot at my house in Savannah from the much more recent snowfall this year:

For the record, after 1958 there were several more snowfalls in Savannah: 1968 (3.5 inches, huge for this area), 1973 (3.2 inches), 1977, 1986, 1989 (Feb. and Dec.), and of course this one in 2010.

Savannah dairy vehicles

June 9, 2009

Here are a few vintage shots of local milk delivery trucks. First, an awesome photo of one of our farm’s trucks in the mid-1920s:

Dairy Truck 1926

Note the dairy’s permit number, in our case 26, clearly posted on the side.

Here’s another shot of a different, apparently larger, Morekis Dairy vehicle, year unknown (permit is also 26):

Morekis Dairy Truck

For an interesting change of pace, here’s an image of an old Starland Dairy horse-drawn delivery wagon, circa 1945:

Milk Delivery Wagon,1945,Savannah, GA