With an intoxicating perfume of magnolia, moonlight and mystery, Milledgeville has earned quite a reputation over the years. The rebellious, yet classic beauty has often been misjudged and misunderstood, but her attraction is undeniable.
Southern flair is common in Milledgeville’s colorful architectural legacy. Founded in 1803 around a series of beautiful squares and wide streets, Milledgeville is the only city in the U.S., with the exception of Washington D.C., actually designed to be a capital city. For more than 60 years, she remained the capital. Many area homes and structures survived the periodic fires and willful destruction of the War Between the States. For on a bitterly cold November day, General William T. Sherman and 30,000 Federal troops marched in Milledgeville.
Designated as the new Capital of Georgia, the highest point in the city was reserved for the Statehouse Square. In 1805 construction began and The Old Capitol Building became the first public building ever designed in the United States in the Gothic Revival style. Significant expansions were added to the building with north and south wings built c. 1828 and 1834. The work was directed by architect Henry Hamilton, who added the crenellations and a plaster skin. The beautiful east and west porticoes with their granite steps were added in 1835, completing the building to the appearance it maintains today. It served as the seat of government for the State of Georgia from 1807 to 1868, hosting the state’s Secession Convention in early 1861. It was here that the delegates voted in favor of joining the Confederate States of America, to the accompaniment of wild celebrations, bonfires, and illuminations on the Statehouse Square. Today, Georgia Military College calls the building home. When visiting Milledgeville, be sure to leave time to tour the ground floor, home to Georgia’s Old Capital Museum. This regional museum interprets, preserves, and communicates the historical and cultural heritage of the Milledgeville – Baldwin County and broader Middle Georgia areas.
English-born architect, John Marlor, moved from Charleston in 1815 to leave his own colorful mark, developing a new American architectural style known as Milledgeville Federal. Visitors can tour Marlor’s work at the c.1825 Brown-Stetson-Sanford House, taking note of his signature fan-lighted front entrances and signature spiral staircases. The oldest Masonic Hall still in use in the state of Georgia was also built by Marlor in 1834. Inside the brick building, a grand, very rare three story unsupported circular stairway with a skylight above awes guests.
The c. 1839 Old Governor’s Mansion is another important architectural marvel that housed Georgia’s chief executives for 30 years and is recognized as one of America’s finest examples of High Greek Revival architecture. Designed by noted architect Charles Clusky, an Irish immigrant and built by Timothy Porter of Farmington, Connecticut, the four stories tall Mansion looms over Milledgeville with its stately columns, imposing façade and interior Rotunda. During the Civil War, the Mansion was claimed as a “prize” in the “March to the Sea,” when General William T. Sherman headquartered in the building on November 23, 1864. Following the war, Georgia’s capital was relocated to Atlanta, and the Mansion was abandoned. Given over to Georgia Normal & Industrial College (currently known as Georgia College), the Mansion served as the founding building of the institution and is the campus’s most treasured structure. Beginning in the late 1990s, an initiative was begun to return the Mansion to its antebellum splendor. The Old Governor’s Mansion now serves as an historic house museum. The Old Governor’s Mansion was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1973 and is an accredited museum of the American Alliance of Museums. In 2015, the Old Governor’s Mansion was named an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution.
At heart though, Milly is just a true southern belle. Meet Milledgeville, the First Lady of Georgia. Your preconceived notions will be swept away by entertaining tales of governors, generals and ghosts.