Georgia’s Antebellum Trail is one of the oldest parts of the state and has some of the most historically preserved buildings in the South. Travelers can start in Athens, home to the University of Georgia, and end in music mecca Macon or travel in the opposite direction.
Athens is home to the University of Georgia and was the stomping grounds for music acts like R.E.M. and the B-52s. But before that, it was another town that Sherman left in ruins. These Antebellum buildings are the best preserved in the city and are open to visitors.
T.R.R. Cobb House– Built in 1830, this house was home to Thomas Cobb, the founder of the University of Georgia School of Law, soldier, and signer of the Confederate Constitution.
The house was sent to Stone Mountain, Georgia to be an attraction at the park in 1984, but was finally moved back to its nearly original home and restored in 2007. The home is open from Tuesdays to Saturdays from 10 am to 4 pm. 175 Hill Street
Taylor-Grady House– Cotton merchant Robert Taylor originally built the house in 1840, but the home’s most prominent resident was Henry W. Grady of journalism fame.
Now operated by the Junior League of Athens, the house is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9 am to 3 pm and on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 am to 1 pm. 634 Prince Avenue
Lucy Cobb Institute– While the girl’s school no longer exists in its original form, the Carl Vinson Institute of Government has a small exhibit of artifact from the school’s history from 1859-1931. Be sure to visit the Seney-Stovall Chapel. 201 North Milledge Avenue
Church-Waddel-Brumby House– This building is now home to the Athens Welcome Center and Classic City Tours, but you can still look around the Federal Style home that housed university presidents since 1819. It’s open Monday through Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm and on Sundays from 12 pm to 5 pm. 280 East Dougherty Street
Lyndon House– Built in 1856, the house became the city’s first recreation center. It’s free to visit and the best time to see it is during a free concert. The house is open from 12 to 9 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 9 am to 5 pm on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays and closed on Sundays and Mondays. 293 Hoyt Street
Watkinsville is known more as a suburb of the Classic City but has plenty of its own Antebellum landmarks worth stopping for like the Elder Mill Covered Bridge, one of the few remaining in the United States.
The Eagle Tavern– Built in the 1700s, the tavern was a stagecoach stop, hotel, and tavern. It’s also the reason that UGA was placed in nearby Athens rather than Watkinsville, as not to sully the school’s reputation with a bar. 26 North Main Street
Ashford Manor– The B&B’s interior is only open to guests, but you can explore the four-acre gardens and admire the Victorian architecture. 5 Harden Hill Road
Madison is known as “the town Sherman refused to burn,” not because of the town’s charm, which it has in spades, but because of a relationship between the general and a Madisonian’s brother. For whatever reason, the town was left relatively unscathed by the Civil War, which is how it became known as “the most cultured and aristocratic town on the stagecoach route from Charleston to New Orleans.” Antique stores cover the town square, all facing the majestic Morgan County Courthouse. If you have time, I recommend picking up a self-guided tour brochure from the visitor’s center.
Heritage Hall– The stunning 1811 Greek Revival home was built for Dr. Elijah Evans Jones. The home’s imposing columns and window etchings are the most prominent features. It was a private home until 1977 when it was sold to the Morgan County Historical Society. 277 South Main Street
Hilltop– Built in 1838 as a wedding gift, Hilltop is a private home only open to the public a few times per year, including the Tour of Homes every spring and winter. The Greek Revival is outfitted with antiques and family photos. 543 North Main Street
Rogers House and Rose Cottage– The 1809 Piedmont Plain Style home was built by Reuben Rogers and pre-dates the iconic Morgan County Courthouse. Its furnishings are representative of the mid 19th century. The Rose Cottage belonged to a freed slave. 179 East Jefferson Street
Madison Morgan Cultural Center– The Romanesque Revival building was the first graded school house in the Southeast and now is home to a museum representing the South through the years. It’s broken down into The Land, The People, The Way, At Work, At Home and In the World. There are also restored classrooms, parlors, and the theatre. 434 South Main Street
Eatonton is the county seat of Putnam County was established in 1809 in land ceded by the Creek Indians. It served as a railroad stop between Macon and Savannah. Today it has a historic district and booming dairy industry and is home to the Uncle Remus Museum. It’s also a part of Georgia’s Lake Country.
Slade Hall– The rare Greek Revival home built in the 1850s was built by the first merchant in town. It is now privately owned, but tours are offered a few times per year to see the owner’s antique collection and remodeling of the property. 206 North Madison Avenue
Uncle Remus Museum– Writer Joel Chandler Harris grew up in Eatonton and his characters Brer Rabbit and Uncle Remus became known throughout the world. The restored slave cabin, part of the home of “Little Boy” Joseph Sidney Turner, is now a museum to Chandler’s life and influence. 214 Oak Street
Napier-Reid-Rainey-Stubbs-Eagle Tavern (Bronson House)– The Piedmont Plain house changed to Greek Revival and was once a tavern. It is now the headquarters for the Eatonton-Putnam Historical Society. Owner Andrew Reid was one of the first patrons of author Joel Chandler Harris. 114 North Madison Avenue
As Georgia’s Antebellum Capital, Milledgeville has more buildings predating the Civil War than anywhere in the state. The county was formed in 1803 and Milledgeville became the capital of Georgia during the early 1800s. Flannery O’Connor lived here for much of her life. Go to the visitor’s center for the Historic Walking Tour brochure, full of additional homes worth visiting. Milledgeville is also located on stunning Lake Sinclair, making it a place to spend a few days on the water.
Governor’s Mansion– General Sherman claimed the mansion during his “March to the Sea.” The 1839 High Greek Revival home has since been housing for the presidents and staff of Georgia College and State University before being turned into a museum. 120 South Clarke Street
Georgia Old Capital Museum– Located on the ground floor of the Old Statehouse, the museum represents the state’s capitol from 1807 to 1868, at which point it was moved to Atlanta. The Georgia Military College has occupied the space since then. It was here that Georgia seceded from the Union. 201 East Greene Street
Lockerly Arboretum– The Southern Greek Revival plantation is the centerpiece of the Lockerly Arboretum, which has acres of stunning gardens. The home, built in 1839, now has an iPod tour. 1534 Irwinton Highway
Brown Stetson Sanford House– The “Milledgeville Federal” style home built by John Marlor was later a hotel, tavern, and restaurant. 601 West Hancock Street
Old Clinton and Gray
Established in 1808, Old Clinton is known as “the town that time forgot.” The former frontier town consisted mostly of log houses and was mostly destroyed during Sherman’s infamous March to the Sea. Only 13 original structures exist today. Gray’s history is very much intertwined with that of Old Clinton as it was established in the 1880s when the railroad was making its way through the state. It is now the county seat of Jones County and has a historic district as well as more stores, restaurants, and a few hotels.
Pine Ridge School– This late 1800s one-room schoolhouse was relocated from the Pine Ridge community 4 miles away and restored in the 1980s. It now has exhibits on how it would have looked as well as information about Old Clinton. 386 Pulaski Street
Parrish-Billue House– Built circa 1810 by early settler Captain Jonathon Parrish, the house was headquarters of the Federal cavalry on the March to the Sea. 412 Madison Street
McCarthy-Pope House– The oldest house in the town was built in 1809 and is named for Roger McCarthy, the original owner, and Charles McCarthy, a later resident, and Clerk of the Superior Court. 417 Pulaski Street
Macon, known as the “Song and Soul of the South,” lies a little over two hours south of Atlanta and has been the stomping grounds of acts like Otis Redding, Little Richard, and the Allman Brothers. It’s home to Mercer University and Wesleyan College, where the Alpha Delta Pi and Phi Mu sororities were founded. It certainly has the small town vibe, particularly the downtown area.
Hay House– Known as the Palace of the South, built in 1859, the stunning home was featured on the A&E series “America’s Castles.” The cupola and custom made doors are some of the most stunning features of the house. They also run special behind-the-scenes tours of the home every month. 934 Georgia Avenue
Sidney Lanier Cottage– Georgia’s poet laureate, Sidney Lanier, was born in this 1840s home. Here you can see where he wrote his poems, his rare flute, and his wife’s wedding gown. 935 High Street
The Cannonball House– Built c. 1853, it was the only Macon house damaged in the war. A cannonball shot from the Ocmulgee River hit one of the columns and landed on the living room floor. It is now a Civil War museum. 856 Mulberry Street