Surprising Suburbs: Harlem

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Silly is good in the suburbs, especially when you choose little Harlem, Georgia.  Consider this a suburb of Augusta and Thomson in Columbia County, which Grammy winner Lady Antebellum calls home.

Laurel and Hardy pull raucous laughter out of thousands of visitors all year long, and by the thousands during the annual first Saturday in October festival tied to their museum in Harlem.  Movie dates are noisy, a cause and effect of laughter from the Laurel and Hardy Museum’s non-stop run of classic film.

Family travel builds bridges here, with some children seeing their first silly slapstick black-and-white short films; first wondering why their parents are stricken with the giggles, before contracting them, too. Laurel and Hardy films are a good counterbalance to the werewolf and vampire dominance in film-watching America today.

Laurel.Hardy.MuseumThe Laurel and Hardy Museum is a homey, unpretentious, sort of simple place with thousands of memorabilia items. Most everybody poses for a picture with Stan and Ollie in their car, known from their 1929 film “A Perfect Day.”

Museum docents are proud to tell this is the only Laurel and Hardy museum in America, and one of only three in the world. As such, it attracts visitors from all over. You don’t see signatures listing Saudi Arabia as home in just any museum guest book, but I did here. This idiosyncratic museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

You might consider staying overnight at nearby Red Oak Manor bed and breakfast. That will give you another day to watch more films and laugh longer.

horizonal tree through trees webBuilt in 1885, seven years before Norvell “Oliver” Hardy was born, Red Oak Manor has five guest rooms; the downstairs room and bath are handicap accessible. Two upstairs guest rooms have private baths, and two share one. Acorn is the name of the Manor’s restaurant with breakfast, lunch and dinner. Pass under centuries-old oak trees walking through the yard to the museum.

Christine 12. 2007 4Christine Tibbetts claimed Georgia as her home state in 1972.  She covers Georgia destinations, and the world, always offering prompts for exceptional experiences and opportunities to muse. Tibbetts earned a Bachelor of Journalism from the prestigious School of Journalism at the University of Missouri and is the recipient of numerous gold, silver and merit awards from North American Travel Journalists Association writing competitions. Follow her at www.TibbettsTravel.com.

Surprising Suburbs: Sunbury

Sunbury shares history and pleasure in new ways.

Sure, Savannah is a grand Georgia destination, but the Georgia Coast has many other communities to explore just a short drive away. Head south on Interstate 95 and embrace a new notion in Sunbury, where people passionate about the woods, waters, gardens, marshes and trails protect the ecosystem in their family since 1755.

Sunrise at Dunham Farms

Sunrise at Dunham Farms

It is rarely possible to overnight in a home on land given to a family as a king’s grant before America was America, but you can at Dunham Farms, where Laura and Meredith Devendorf are the mother-daughter proprietors. This nine-guest-bedroom home is actually a barn! Try to figure out how because the renovation is elegant, the linens exquisite and the furnishings, antiques and reproductions fill the home with immense charm. The meals are gourmet, and attention to detail is abundant through the Dunham Farms 9,400 acres. Kayaking, even by moonlight, hiking 35 miles of trails winding through oaks, pines, wetlands and marsh banks, birding and dreamy relaxing define reason enough for a holiday.

The Devendorfs seem to be protecting these fragile ecosystems in ways to safely share them abundantly. Melon Bluff was the name of 2,300 acres of theirs, which they donated to the Springfield Legacy Foundation for research, education and outreach.  Look for 82 of their acres closest to the Interstate, donated in 2013 to become a replica of the Santa Clara Mission, which we should be able to experience next year.   That will be a suburb within a suburb, spanning centuries.

Soldier at Fort Morris

Soldier at Fort Morris

Dunham Farms is the continuing site for significant archeological research ever since a coin dated 1526 was found there. Over the next eight years, we might see archeologists at work in test sites throughout the farm, each plot identified first with GIS locators. Send the grandchildren when they’re grown up for a Dunham Farms holiday, because the Devendorfs expect the full archeology might take 75 years! While visiting Sunbury, watch the documentary at Fort Morris, the state historical site, explaining the early days of the community. Fort Morris played a role in the War of 1812 and the Civil War; a visit includes the museum and theater, blacksmith shop and earthworks.

Seabrook Village

Seabrook Village

Also nearby is Seabrook Village, a real community from 1865 -1930, that today is an authentic living history village, with restored and furnished buildings, abounding with cultural artifacts from the families living here. These are stories of slavery and Sherman’s scorched earth, early freedom and land ownership. Consider a three-hour guided tour, with a picnic and entertainment if you like. Self-guided visit? Allow at least an hour.

Christine 12. 2007 4Christine Tibbetts claimed Georgia as her home state in 1972.  She covers Georgia destinations, and the world, always offering prompts for exceptional experiences and opportunities to muse. Tibbetts earned a Bachelor of Journalism from the prestigious School of Journalism at the University of Missouri and is the recipient of numerous gold, silver and merit awards from North American Travel Journalists Association writing competitions. Follow her at www.TibbettsTravel.com.

Surprising Georgia Suburbs: Cave Spring

Cave Spring exudes water, passion and preservation.

Help yourself to a drink of delectable water flowing from this cave, and take a tour inside. Photo courtesy J. C. Boehm, Tumlin House.

Photo courtesy J. C. Boehm, Tumlin House.

Take a pitcher to Cave Spring to capture the pure and delicious water in this northwest Georgia community. There are no chemicals in the 1.2 million gallons flowing every day from deep underground — just a dash of fluoride and a bit of required chlorinate. “99.9 percent pure,” Cave Spring Mayor Rob Ware says, of his community next door to Rome. To get to the source:

  • Meander through 29-acre Rolater Park, cross a little stream with ducks of many-colored heads.
  • Venture into the limestone cave with rocky passageways. Self-guided tours are available for $1.00 in the spring and fall, or by appointment.
  • Squat outside the cave entrance to fill as many containers as you like. Paper cups are available, but I recommend taking a substantial vessel. This water tastes too good for just a sip. It is worthy of my Waterford.
Comfortable sleeping, fine conversation, sumptuous meals and historic connections abound in the Tumlin House, a bed and breakfast inn in Cave Spring. Photo by G. W. Tibbetts.

Photo by G. W. Tibbetts.

The water is reason enough to visit this suburb of Rome, and so is sleeping over. Two historic inns are real options.I chose the two-story Victorian Tumlin House where the great-great niece of the original owner is today’s proprietor. I like real-live history connections, and Nancy Boehm (pronounced “bome,” spelled like the artisans of porcelain birds but not related) has a house full of them. Nancy knows lots of family stories in Cave Spring, going back to her Aunt Julia Dickerson receiving this house as a wedding gift from her father in 1896 when she married Albert Tumlin. Albert’s hat hangs in the parlor.

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Photo by G. W. Tibbetts

Passionate people live here,  caring deeply about their town of 1,200 neighbors. Enduring spirits do too: the Cherokee.Local historians three years ago discovered a two-story log building belonging to the Cherokee Vann family, built in 1810. That means before the Trail of Tears, and before Cave Spring was claimed by white settlers. Quite something, this two-story house and also the substantial Cherokee family home of Major and Schoya Ridge in nearby Rome. How was the log home protected so long? It was covered up by the Green Hotel, built all around the Cherokee building.

There is plenty of evidence of what happens in this tiny town when preservation people fuel their passion. Start in Rolater Park, the same place you get the water. Hearn Academy is the name to know, the private school established in 1839 to be “a permanent school of high order.” It seems that worked until 1922 when public schools were flourishing in Georgia. This exquisitely restored building was a boys’ dormitory; today it’s an inn.

Follow the Explore Georgia Blog for more Surprising Suburb adventures.

Christine 12. 2007 4Christine Tibbetts claimed Georgia as her home state in 1972.  She covers Georgia destinations, and the world, always offering prompts for exceptional experiences and opportunities to muse. Tibbetts earned a Bachelor of Journalism from the prestigious School of Journalism at the University of Missouri and is the recipient of numerous gold, silver and merit awards from North American Travel Journalists Association writing competitions. Follow her at www.TibbettsTravel.com

April’s Antebellum Trail Pilgrimage is a Walk Through Time

Ezell Tatum House in Eatonton, Georgia

Ezell-Tatum House in Eatonton, Georgia

Middle Georgia’s 100-mile Antebellum Trail of seven communities offers an abundant look into 19th century life and earlier. Visitors can travel the trail year-round, but many choose April 18 – 21 for the annual Pilgrimage. $25 covers entrance to everything during these four days, with passes available at each community’s welcome center. (Find welcome center addresses at www.atpilgrimage.com). Macon and Athens bookend the Antebellum Trail with abundance and distinctive opportunities fill the communities in between.

The years leading to 1860 are the focus of the trail. I entered the back edge of the Civil War, not battlefield center, with connections to Revolutionary War veterans and families, too.

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Uncle Remus Museum in Eatonton

Eatonton is the 1848 birthplace of Joel Chandler Harris, and the Uncle Remus Museum is 50 years old. Go to the source. You know these tales. Old and new at the same time is the Old School History Museum. Sleep in Watkinsville because the Ashford Manor wraps visitors in history and hospitality.  Choose the 1840s cottage for an antebellum night or the main house, an 1893 Queen Anne. “Artland,” Watkinsville is called, and art is abundant in the 1827 Haygood House, home and gallery of Jerry and Kathy Chappelle. Frontier years enticed me, especially Eagle Tavern built in 1801 on land given to a Revolutionary War veteran.

The 1811 Heritage Hall in Madison provides family stories, exquisite furnishings and lifestyle insight in a two-story Greek Revival home with docent-led tours.The Madison-Morgan Cultural Center stretches antebellum, built in 1895, but enjoy the architecture, theater, Arts and Crafts-style furniture gallery, and history museum anyway.

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Old Governor’s Mansion in Milledgeville

Milledgeville was home to Georgia’s governors from 1839 – 1868, and their house is grandly interpreted as the Old Governor’s Mansion. Those governors received salaries but not entertainment budgets, so note the difference as you follow the Antebellum Trail. Macon’s Hay House of the same era was private, and it’s lavish. In Milledgeville’s Old Capital Museum, an 1807 Gothic building, peer into tableaux of eight antebellum women, researched from diaries and written records, most with a book you and I could read, too. Then go upstairs to imagine the mood where Georgia’s four-day secession convention was held in 1861.

These are just some of musings possible on the Antebellum Trail Pilgrimage. Click here for information on how to attend the 2013 pilgrimage.

Christine 12. 2007 4Christine Tibbetts claimed Georgia as her home state in 1972.  She covers Georgia destinations, and the world, always offering prompts for exceptional experiences and opportunities to muse. Tibbetts earned a Bachelor of Journalism from the prestigious School of Journalism at the University of Missouri and is the recipient of numerous gold, silver and merit awards from North American Travel Journalists Association writing competitions. Follow her at www.TibbettsTravel.com