Georgia: Walk Down the Antebellum Trail

Physician's Money Digest, June15 2004, Volume 11, Issue 11

General Sherman torched Atlanta and blazedhis way to the sea. Fortunately, he missed afew of the state's finest mansions, leaving atrail that allows travelers to drive through a time tunnelof antebellum history. In the silence of misty morningsof ghostly towns such as Old Clinton, you canalmost hear the footsteps of forgotten soldiers and thedistant crack of cannons.

Cultural Beginnings

Georgia's Antebellum Trail (706-485-7701; www.antebellumtrail.org) runs from Athens to Macon, give ortake a side road, so start northeast of Atlanta in Athensand end in Macon 3 or 4 days later. Home of theUniversity of Georgia, chartered in 1785, Athens is azesty mix of the ancient and the hip.

Tour the magnificent campus, dine at the HoytHouse (706-425-0444; www.foundryparkinn.com/hoyt.htm), built in 1829, and tour antebellum homes.One houses the Athens Welcome Center (706-353-1820;www.visitathensga.com/welcome_center.cfm), where theAntebellum Trail begins. Amble through the State BotanicalGarden (706-542-1244; www.uga.edu/botgarden) and spend evenings in Athens with jazz, salsa, orcountry music. Or take in a performance at the ClassicCenter (800-918-6393; www.classiccenter.com), whereperformances range from Broadway shows to bluegrass.

Driving south to Watkinsville, stop by the EagleTavern (706-769-5197), one of Georgia's oldest structuresand the city's welcome center. You can overnight atAshford Manor (706-769-2633; www.ambedandbreakfast.com), built for a wealthy family in 1893, and lingerafter breakfast to read in the gazebo to the serenade of asibilant fountain. Then head south to Madison (800-709-7406; www.madisonga.org) to walk the Main StreetHistoric District, see more antebellum mansions, andplan a side trip to Old Clinton, two miles outside of Gray.

Rising from the Ashes

Once Georgia's commercial and political hotspot,Clinton was punished severely by Union conquerors andnever recovered. See sites of old hotels, homes, merchantposts, and the cemetery, and then walk old streets, wherea handful of residents keep the community alive.

At Milledgeville (478-453-9311; www.milledgeville.com), the state capital from 1804 to 1868, start with thetrolley tour, which offers easy travel and excellent narration.Afterwards, pick up a free, self-guided tourbrochure at the welcome center downtown and see morethan 200 superb historic sites, including the old governor'smansion, furnished in period antiques, and the oldstate house. Outside of town, Lockerly Arboretum (478-452-2112; www.lockerlyarboretum.org) is the site of afine mansion, acres of floral fireworks, and a pond for aplacid afternoon of fishing.

Gone With the Wind.

Georgia has many antebellum treasures, but Macon(800-768-3401; maconga.org) stands out for its extravagantmansions and oceans of cherry blossoms eachspring. Due to its great wealth, it was once called theQueen Inland City of the South. Macon survived theCivil War almost unscathed except for the magnificentCannonball House, built in 1853 and still bearing thescar of a Yankee shot. Visitors can tour Hay House, anawesome, 18,000-square-foot Italian RenaissanceRevival villa. Scores of mansions are open to the public—some only at special times or as bed and breakfasts.Take a walking tour to marvel at architecture straightout of

Outside Macon, take a break from Civil War historyand see the beginnings of 12,000 years of local history atthe Ocmulgee National Monument (478-752-8257;www.nps.gov/ocmu). Earthen mounds and an informativemuseum show what life in this lush valley was likemillennia ago, long before the European settlement.

Hike the Georgia countryside. Fish and ski at LakeSinclair. See the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. The regionoffers much more than history, but the Civil War connectionis compelling and ever-present. Along the way,find eateries ranging from gourmet to grits-and-greens,antique shops, and bed and breakfasts that shower visitorswith southern hospitality.