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This is an extract of what to see in this state, with small photos. You will find the full description, history and full-sized photos, in my e-book View America: South Atlantic - Part 2
In the travel series View America, South Atlantic - part 2 covers Georgia, Virginia, and West Virginia. It is not a traditional travelogue, but a non-commercial and more or less objective chronicle of an in-depth exploration of these states. Each state is described with its own brief historical background and its main sights, tourist attractions and points of interest.
My book does not describe lodgings, restaurants or entertainment, except where these may interact with the narrative. It is illustrated with more than 100 full-sized photos.
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GEORGIA is the last of the thirteen original colonies, and it is also known as the Peach State for its peach crop, the Empire State of the South for its rapid economic growth, the Buzzard State after a very old law to protect buzzards (probably hawks instead of the vulture), and finally as the Goober State, after its large peanut harvest... The colony was named after the English King George II. In 1788, Georgia joined the US as the fourth state. The capital and largest city is Atlanta.
The surface of the state is 150,000 km2, which makes Georgia the largest state east of the Mississippi. Once it was almost completely forested, 66% of which still remains. Georgia has approximately eight million inhabitants, with a density of 56 per km2, but half of the population lives in metropolitan Atlanta. The Atlanta-Hartsfield airport is the main southern airport, and it is also the most active airport in the country.
After 1733 the main crops were indigo, rice and sugarcane, but in 1786 King Cotton made his entrance! By 1800 almost all of the crops were replaced by cotton, even though the continuous cultivation greatly diminished the soil's fertility. Nevertheless, cotton continued to reign until 1930.
Before the Civil War, large cotton plantations were completely worked by slaves. After the war, they obtained their freedom but completely lapsed into the ominous sharecropper system. Until 1860 Georgia was one of the most prosperous states of the south, but the Civil War demoted it to one of the poorest states, until long after 1950.
In 1920 the boll weevil insect destroyed a major part of the harvest, and it spread over almost the entire south. At present, crops are rotated between cotton, peanuts, corn and tobacco, but since 1990 cotton is doing pretty well again. Other important industries are wood and tourism.
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THINGS TO SEE
The main attraction of Stone Mountain Park is of course the immense rock in pure granite, about 260 meters high, which is the largest exposed rock in the world ! Three hundred million years ago, volcanic forces pushed a huge bubble of magma to about three kilometers below the surface. Erosion gradually scraped away the top layers, and the present 57 acre rock came to the surface.
An additional attraction is the beautiful sculpture in the side of the rock, a surprising homage to three important Confederacy figures, President Jefferson Davis and Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson. This may sound strange, since after all they lost the secession war, but in the south they are still commemorated.
In 1955 the park was purchased by the State of Georgia and transformed into a national park. There are many other attractions, such as a laser show, a reconstructed village anno 1870, a 4-D theater, a railroad around the park, several attractions for children, a museum, a cable lift to the top of Stone Mountain, a reconstructed paddle boat on the large lake, an Old Timer museum, a water theme park, and several restaurants.
This National Park has become Georgia's most visited attraction !
The CNN or Cable News Network building is located right next to the Philips building. The ground floor consists of a vast open space and a Food Court, which actually is a good idea, given the large number of offices and visitors.
Read more about CNN and Ted Turner.
Underground Atlanta is an old Subway station, that was converted into an underground shopping center, and packed with countless shops and restaurants, sellers and singers. It is certainly picturesque and popular, albeit not very well-maintained...
The World of Coca-Cola is an outstanding exhibition of many Coca-Cola memorabilia, and highlights of its history. Unfortunately, the exhibition seems to focus more on children and sometimes uses a somewhat childish advertising style. The marketing films that are shown, astutely laud the fame and glory of the brand, but sometimes fail to provide entirely correct or complete information.
All the brews that the company manufactures can be freely tested, and there are many of them! The souvenir shop, named Coca-Cola Store, features a downright unbelievable collection of artefacts, that have been used at one time or another to further the brand. Next to average "stuff", the collector will find several beautiful and remarkable things.
Tara, the fictional O'Hara plantation from the bestseller Gone with the Wind, was supposedly located in Jonesborough, Georgia, now spelled as Jonesboro. The town has a rather peculiar aspect, since the railroad runs right through it!
A picturesque and restored railroad depot houses the local Welcome Center, but also the "Road to Tara Museum". They proclaim to have the largest collection of memorabilia about the book and the equally famous movie. Read more about the story of Gone with the Wind.
Read about the origin of Savannah.
The downtown Visitor Center provides a welcome tourist parking, since it is difficult to find a parking spot in the city. It is also the starting point of the Old Town Trolley Tours, in an orange city tram. The price of the ticket includes a guided visit to the Sorrel-Weed House, an antebellum house with (according to the brochure) a well-preserved architecture and fine furnishings.
The city tour starts at the museum, in which there is a replica of the SS Savannah, the first steamship to cross the ocean. The museum itself is located in an old station, where the entire state's cotton was shipped to the rest of the world.
Many movies have been filmed in this city. Next to a flowerbed at the edge of Madison Square, you'll find the famous bench on which an exceptional Tom Hanks delivered his equally exceptional monologue in the hit movie Forest Gump. The bench itself has prudently been moved to a museum for safety reasons, otherwise it would probably since long have been picked to pieces by fervent souvenir hunters...
St John's Cathedral is a beautifully executed pearl of architecture, and certainly worth a visit.
The Sorrel-Weed House is located on Madison Square. The documentation describes it as "a Grand Antebellum Home from 1838, with extraordinary architecture and superb antique furniture". The house has many large windows but only very few doors, because in those days the owners were taxed on the number of doors! A similar reason explains why there are so few wardrobes, but instead many mansions had large folding suit- or travel cases.
Savannah's symbol of hospitality was the pineapple. It was exhibited at the entrance of the building, or on the mantelpiece in the reception room, and it demonstrated that all guests were welcome. But at soon as the host or hostess became bored, the pineapple mysteriously disappeared, which was an unmistakeable hint for the guests to follow suit...
The Savannah port, with its famous River Walk, is certainly worth a visit. On the river the traditional push-barges still drift by. Savannah used to set the cotton price for the entire world, during more than one hundred years! This entire quarter used to be but one chain of warehouses, but the street has been redeveloped into a tourist center where it is pleasant to stroll. The River Walk is literally packed with shops and restaurants, and everything is geared to the tourist.
The road along the port, and even several walls have been made of Belgian cobblestones, which are almost indestructible porphyrite stones. These came out of the ship's ballast, that was unloaded when they took on cotton or other merchandise. Sometimes the ship needed to take on more ballast, but usually more stones were removed than loaded, and in the end they received another destination.
Thomasville is home to the Pebble Hill Plantation. This Plantation is an estate of approximately 1,200 hectares, and it is completely surrounded by magnolias. It started out as a honey farm in 1825, and was founded by Thomas Jefferson Johnson, after whom Thomasville was named. After the Secession War (1860-1865) however, the plantation wasn't worth much anymore.
In 1896 it was sold to Howard Melville Hanna, a wealthy industrialist from Cleveland, Ohio, as a winter mansion. Hanna was one of the founders of Standard Oil, next to Rockefeller, and at the age of thirty-nine he was already a multimillionaire ! Next to his shares of Esso, he also owned hospitals, railroads, mines, movie studios, cattle farms, horse farms, and so on. He was also a brother to Marc Hanna, the Ohio senator who guided McKinley to the Presidency.
In 1901, Hanna gave the Pebble Hill property to his daughter, Kate Benedict Hanna Ireland. The Hanna family used the estate for three generations, and the ladies always took care of the mansion. The property was gradually extended for cattle-breeding, horses and dogs were brought in, and the domain was used for quail hunting and the typical English dog hunting.
In 1934, a large part of the main house was burned. Kate made major improvements on the plantation, and expanded the acreage. She ordered architect Abram Garfield, the son of the 20th president, to build a magnificent estate with 48 rooms, to accommodate their wide social circle. Besides the house and the animal dwellings, they added a garage, a small hospital, a fire station, a school for the children, a veterinary office, a pool, beautiful gardens and a private cemetery. The reconstruction cost one million dollars !
In 1936, Kate's daughter Pansy became Pebble Hill's mistress. Pansy preserved what her mother had created, and enjoyed Pebble Hill as her main residence until her death in 1978. There were sixty servants just for the house, and Pansy had more than ninety different sets of place settings and cutlery, so that a guest would never see the same set twice during his stay...
She organized large hunting parties, and gave many receptions for the high and mighty, as her circle of acquaintances was very wide indeed ! Presidents Eisenhower and Carter were welcome guests, and Jacqueline Kennedy stayed there for six weeks, after her husband was assassinated !