My Reminiscences of events, old and new, and travels, far and near
Sunday, May 17, 2015
Spring in the Deep South - Madison, part 2
At the end of April we took a little trip east of Atlanta. In part 1 of this post, I showed where we stopped for lunch - the Blue Willow Inn in Social Circle. Then we drove further on to another historic town called Madison. Madison is in Morgan County, sixty miles east of Atlanta (half way between Atlanta and Augusta,) with a population of about 4,000. It is a pretty town with many vintage houses. One of its well-known citizens was Oliver Hardy of the comedy team Laurel and Hardy.
Oliver "Ollie" Hardy was born named Norvell Hardy in Harlem, Georgia (outside of Augusta, GA) on January 18, 1892. His father, Oliver Hardy, a lawyer, had been wounded at the Battle of Antietam in 1862 and was a Confederate veteran. In February 1892 the Hardy family moved 1 hour 30 minutes away to Madison, Georgia, where the father, Oliver, operated the Turnell-Butler Hotel (shown in postcard below.) A few months later, in November 1892, Mr. Hardy died. When Norvell became a comedian he took the name "Oliver" in honor of his father. In 1927 Oliver Hardy (1892-1957) and Stan Laurel (1890-1965, born in Ulverston, Lancashire, England) started a comedy team. They were very successful and made hundreds of films. I remember my father, when I was a wee child in Paris, had bought a second-hand movie projector. He would play Laurel and Hardy and Charlie Chaplin movies often to the joy of all our neighbors who came to watch them with us. (Click on collage to enlarge.)
It took us about 30 minutes to drive to Madison. I avoided the highway and took a small rural road where there was no traffic. I took a picture through my windshield - there is a glass reflection though.
Earlier I had read that one of Madison's antebellum mansions could be visited but closed by 4 pm so we drove there presently. The home is operated by the Friends of Heritage Hall and is open for tours, weddings and special events. When we arrived a bus load of ladies was taking a tour of the house. We sat in rocking chairs and waited. As you can see in the picture below the house has four columns and two square piers on each side. This is the only house like this in Madison.
When the tour group had left, a docent gave me a tour of the authentically decorated house - my husband decided to keep rocking on the front porch. The house, known as the Jones-Turnell-Manley House, had been a private residence until 1977. It was built in 1811 and purchased in 1830 by Confederate Dr. Elijah Evans Jones, a prominent physician in Madison. He had been listed as a medical doctor at 22 years of age after one year in medical school. There are photos of Dr. Jones and his wife Elizabeth in the foyer, and portraits made from these photos. Under the photos is an ornate carved bench. (Oops! you can see my reflection, taking the photo, in the mirror on the right.)
Above the piano was the portrait of a young lady with her hair parted 2 ways. The docent explained that before the tradition of giving a diamond as an engagement ring - or when there were not enough funds - an engaged lady would part her hair this way to show that she was engaged. The Jones daughters received diamond rings when they were engaged and to make sure they were real they made etchings with them on the windows that can still be seen.
The first dining room was converted into a doctor's office. Some pretty scary Confederate surgical tools are exposed on a table. During the Civil War very little anesthesia was used during amputations. Most men died from infections following the surgery. On one side of the room is a cabinet containing a collection of fancy spittoons or cuspidors that were for the use of ladies.
The last private owner of the house was philanthropist Sue Reid Walton Manley. A portrait of Sue in her wedding dress is above the mantel in the parlor. Susan Reid Manley Law, her granddaughter, was married in the house and her portrait, in her wedding dress, is above the dining room mantel. She inherited the Greek revival house and donated it to the Morgan Historical Society in 1977.
We walked upstairs to take a look at the bedrooms. Some period clothes were exhibited.
The bedroom with the pink sofa and red carpet was redecorated for the 1994 TV movie "The Oldest Confederate Widow tells all" which was filmed in this house and in Madison. One of the bedrooms is called "The Ghost Bedroom" as many visitors say they have seen the ghost of Dr. Jones' previous wife, Virginia. You can read a report on this phenomenon here.
The docent explained that Madison was not burned during the Civil War because Joshua Hill (1812-1891,) a Georgia Congressman, had been a strong Unionist and refused to vote for secession - he resigned his seat in protest. He was also a friend of General William Tecumseh Sherman's brother and thus the town was spared from Sherman's "March to the Sea." When Georgia was readmitted to the United States in 1871, Joshua Hill became a US Senator for the State of Georgia. As the tour ended I returned to the front porch and rested on a rocking chair next to my husband.
We drove to our Bed and Breakfast called The Brady Inn. The Brady Inn is located in town in an 1885 Victorian house. There are vintage photographs of Patrick Henry Brady and his wife Austria in the foyer. There is a long wraparound porch with rocking chairs. All rooms are decorated with period antiques. We slept in the Annex, in the "Frances Brady" room which opens to the breezeway porch - the beds were most comfortable. Breakfast the next morning included cream cheese stuffed French toast with peach compote, scrambled eggs and bacon. The coffee was good.
Next morning when we left my husband said goodbye to the B&B cat, Brady. We drove to the Madison Square.
We parked close to the Morgan Court House and walked around. The Court House is in the neoclassical revival style and is dominated by a large and almost square dome. It has been described as "one of the most unusual site orientations for a court house and an excellent example of Beaux Arts design." It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
We stepped into the Madison-Morgan Welcome Center. It used to be Madison's City Hall and Fire Station. The original fire bell is in the building cupola. The lady inside the tourist office gave us a postcard, maps and a self-guided tour brochure of Madison. She told us that the city was established in 1809 as a stagecoach stop and has one of the largest historic districts in Georgia with most historic buildings completed between 1830 and 1860. She mentioned that Madison had been the location for numerous movies such as: In the Heat of the Night, I'll Fly Away, Greased Lightning, The Oldest Living Confederate Widow tells all, My Cousin Vinny, Footloose, Vampire Diaries, Halloween II, Warm Springs, The Odd Life of Timothy Green, Goosebumps, Selma and more. Below is the postcard and writing on the back.
Armed with our paper guide, we drove slowly around the historic district streets, stopping to take pictures, read the numerous historic markers and to walk a bit. The Stage Coach House (center below) was built in 1810 and is one of the oldest houses there. It was an inn originally, when Old Post Road was part of the stagecoach route between Charleston and New Orleans.
The Church of the Advent was constructed in 1842 as a Methodist Church and purchased in 1960 by the Episcopalians. The church organ is now housed in the original slave gallery. Across the road is "Boxwood" a Greek revival house which cannot be seen from the road. A gardener was cutting the boxwood and invited us in. There were many English and American boxwood bushes and flowers - I just took one picture of iris, not to intrude. (Click on collage twice to read the signs.)
Just around the corner is Joshua Hill's Home, built in 1835. When General Slocum, of General Sherman's Union Army, came downtown Madison in November 1864, Senator Joshua Hill rode out to meet him with a delegation of men. He reminded Slocum of the gentlemen's agreement not to burn Madison on their march from Atlanta to Savannah. The town and buildings survived. Below is the facade of the house and the swimming pool in the back.
As we drove away on South Main Street we went by a dilapidated High Victorian style house. It is the Forster-Thomason-Miller house, built in 1883. I understand this house has been for sale for a long time. When it was built it was known as the most elegant country home in Middle Georgia. The house has 5,000 s. ft. with 5 bedrooms, 8 fireplaces with 14 ft ceilings on 11+ acres. I saw pictures of its interior in a magazine published prior to the fire. The rooms were furnished with antiques. But everything is gone now as it suffered a fire in 2001. The house is waiting for someone to bring it back to its former elegance.
Our last stop was at the Hunter House. It was built in 1883 by John Hudson Hunter for his wife Ida Clark Hunter when they married. The house is still in the same family. This is the most photographed home in Madison and is known as the Gingerbread House. All the millwork, interior and exterior, was locally made. My photo at the top of this post is taken from the side of the house looking toward the spindle-work porch.
John Hudson Hunter was a rich furniture emporium and drugstore owner in Madison. His children Mamie and Nathan inherited the home and Nathan's wife Evelyn lived in the house until she passed away in 2010 at the age of 103 years old. At present the house is being restored by her granddaughters. Below are pictures of John and Ida, John and his children and Evelyn at 102 in 2010.
It had been a pleasant trip, with sunny weather, not too warm or humid.