The state of Georgia was developed as a British debtor’s colony in 1732 and named in honor of King George II. When the state declared independence from the motherland and as the population spread from coastal settlements to throughout the territory, there was a need for centralized government. Over the state’s history, there have been five major capitals, with a few temporary meeting places.
The Colonial Era to the Civil War
The first capital was in Savannah, close to the original settlements, where it stayed for one year. For the next twenty years, it bounced back between Savannah and Augusta, both in coastal regions, making it difficult for legislators from the rest of the state to get there.
Next it went to Louisville, an hour south of Augusta, where the government stayed for ten years. Finally, in 1807 the legislature moved to Milledgeville, a more central location between Atlanta and Augusta. It was here that the state officially seceded from the United States, marking its place in the Civil War.
Reconstruction to the Present
Macon served as a temporary meeting location until surrender when it moved back to Milledgeville. In an effort to gain more former Native American territories for the state following the 1834 removal, the capital was moved yet again in 1868 to a place called Terminus, where Western and Atlantic railroads ended. Despite a brief name change to Marthasville, a tribute to a governor’s daughter, the new capital became known as Atlanta.
Many branches of government, including City Hall and the Fulton County Courthouse, were housed in the same building, so it was time for a new capitol to be built. The current Georgia capitol was built in 1884 using mostly local materials, including marble, wood, cast iron, and the famous Dahlonega gold dome. During this time, the former capitol building in Milledgeville was handed over to the Georgia Military College, which still uses it today.
Visiting the Georgia Capitals
Georgia Capitol / Georgia Capitol Museum & Tour Program is open Monday through Friday from 8 am to 5 pm. Visitors can go on a self-guided tour of the capital and its museum. If congress is in session, you can watch proceedings from the gallery. Admission is free. 206 State Capitol, Atlanta, Georgia 30334
Georgia’s Old Capital Museum is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 am to 3:30 pm and Saturdays from 12 to 4 pm. Visitors can see the small museum with artifacts from the area as well as the room where the state seceded. Admission is $5.50 for adults. 201 E Greene Street, Milledgeville GA 3105
Governor’s Mansion is a Greek Revival property in Buckhead that was first inhabited by Lester Maddox. Tours are available Tuesday through Thursday from 10 to 11:30 am. Admission is free. 391 West Paces Ferry Rd. NW, Atlanta, Georgia, 30305
Old Governor’s Mansion is a preserved example of what the pre-Civil War governors lived like and displays their furniture and belongings. Sherman’s troops stayed here during the war. Tours are available Tuesday through Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm and Sundays from 2 to 4 pm. Admission is $10 for adults. 120 South Clarke Street, Milledgeville, Georgia, 31061
Story of Georgia’s Capitols and Capital Cities, Edwin L. Jackson