WORTH THE TRIP – Thomasville, Georgia

Posted by: Rick Pariani in Uncategorized

cfiles17809I find that well within the comfortable 3-hour-driving-radius of our community you can gain great experiences at a variety of memorable places. One such place is Thomasville, Georgia – an easy and direct trip, due west of Jacksonville and a beautiful drive north from Tallahassee.

Historic Thomasville is known as the City of Roses. You will experience it as the place where history and heritage is infused with grace and charm. Thomasville was established on December 22, 1826 as the new county seat of Thomas County. The railroad reached Thomasville in 1861 and shortly after the War Between The States the town became known as the “Winter Resort of the South”. The Thomasville experience provided a healthy and lavish resort lifestyle, wrapped up and delivered with the best Southern hospitality.  The town’s brand-new, luxurious, electrified and plumbed, resort hotels regularly hosted America’s wealthiest industrialists, their families and their guests. They came to enjoy and actively socialize over hunting, fishing, horse racing, bicycling, golf and auto excursions on the first circumferential perimeter road in the country. As tales of the town’s prominence and allure spread, many of the annually-returning guests began to build their own in-town “cottages”, designed and decorated by celebrated New York and Chicago architects. The most wealthy and ambitious ones built their own out-lying “plantations” – which were much more “sporting estate” than farm. The discerning lifestyles of both the year-rounders and the winter snow-birds combined to create an enduring sense of place that still characterizes the town.

tumblr_l6uunoECyH1qc8wffI highly recommend that you put a trip to Thomasville on your bucket-list. The town’s commercial and residential architecture was designed and built with the best innovation, quality and old-world craftsmanship of the era. The downtown shopping and dining district is compact and wonderfully walkable. There is a collection of a dozen antique emporiums, many shops and boutiques catering to the piney-woods and plantation lifestyle and funky, award-winning restaurants with locally-inspired cuisine. The downtown Visitors Center (229-228-7977 / www.thomasvillega.com), at the corner of Jackson and Crawford Streets in the Municipal Auditorium Building, is staffed with the nicest folks in town and is a great place to begin your visit. Make sure to use the easy to follow walking tour of the downtown and historic home neighborhood that features 75 notable, storied buildings. The 1923 residence and estate of the Joseph Hampton Flowers family (founders of the Flowers Bakery, still in operation today) serves as the Thomas County Museum of History. Thomasville will host the 90th Anniversary of their Rose Show and Festival on April 21 – 23, 2011, throughout town and in Cherokee Lake Park and Rose Garden.  The town spreads over a natural Live Oak hammock and many centuries-old, venerable trees have been lovingly preserved throughout the town for shade and scale – the most famous of which is simply known as “The Big Oak” – believed to be over 325 years old. The Big Oak was a former subject of the official artist of the National Register of Famous and Historic Trees, Stephen Malkoff. Stephen’s majestic, limited-edition drawing of The Big Oak is now out of print and has become a highly-sought-after, collectable work of art. Incidentally, Stephen is also the artist of the Heritage Oak at World Golf Village (in the King & Bear neighborhood) which was produced in a limited edition of 1,500 prints – and currently still available.

A trip and tour of Thomasville will not be complete without a visit to the nearby Pebble Hill Plantation, on the outskirts of town. Pebble Hill is the South’s most spectacular and lovingly cared for country estate. The primary stewardship of the plantation was through a succession of educated, artistic, cultured, competitive and ambitious women. First, the original land was willed to the 21 year old daughter of the owner, Thomas Jefferson Johnson.  The second owner, industrialist Howard Melville Hanna of Standard Oil, gave it to his daughter, Kate Hanna Ireland Harvey. In 1936, Kate bequeathed it to her daughter, Elisabeth “Miss Pansy” Ireland Poe, who lived there until 1978. Kate, followed by Miss Pansy, chartered the architectural services of Cleveland’s Abram Garfield and built a remarkable collection of support buildings, guest cottages, barns, stables, kennels, carriage houses and a 29 room Main House with every conceivable amenity for comfort, convenience and entertaining. The Main House retains all of its original furnishings and showcases one of America’s premier collections of “Sporting Art”, featuring the work of ten, world-famous English artists and ten, comparable American artists in the Elisabeth Ireland Poe Gallery of Sporting Art. The extended art collection includes many original John James Audubon bird prints, some of which are from his “double-elephant folio”. The horse stable and cow barn complex was modeled after Thomas Jefferson’s University of Virginia central core with its inner courtyard shaded by outstretched, huge Live Oak canopies and encircled with a Jeffersonian-serpentine, red-brick, garden wall. A guided tour of the Main House and a self-guided tour of the out-buildings, gardens and grounds is a worthy indulgence that could easily take hours to absorb. The experience is one of being on a James River Plantation in Virginia – far from southwest Georgia. Miss Pansy left a large endowment to establish the Pebble Hill Foundation to ensure that Pebble Hill will always be cared for properly, so that guests can tour her lovely home for many years to come. You should take advantage.


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