Milledgeville/Baldwin County: Reviving The Old Mansion

The historic Milledgeville walking tour has 44 stops, starting with the visitors center and followed by the Old Capitol Building, renovated in 2000 and getting a new museum this year. Now home to Georgia Military College, it stands in Gothic splendor, imposing as ever.

Just down the street about four blocks and around a corner, the Old Governor’s Mansion had not fared as well – until recently. It was abandoned in 1868 when the state moved the capitol to Atlanta – for the railroad access and the new South image. It was later given to what is now Georgia College & State University, which used it for its original building and treasures it still.

But in recent decades the building was crumbling. Its original glass windowpanes were put into storage so vandals wouldn’t break them.

Now the windows are back – along with just about everything else to make this Greek Revival mansion as fine as it was when it was built in 1839. “We spared no detail,” says Jim Turner, director of the Old Governor’s Mansion and a history professor at the college.

It took 11 years of planning and painstaking research and $9 million from the state and the Woodruff Foundation. But the restoration was finished and the mansion reopened its doors last year. Already more than 12,000 people have visited. The restoration has won state and national awards and many glowing reviews.

“It’s a very big deal for Milledgeville and the state,” says Matthew Davis, curator of the mansion, which is being run strictly as a house museum and is no longer available for meetings, conferences or cotillions. “This is one of the most accurately restored houses in the Southeast and one of the top 10 in the nation.”

A tour of the house reveals seemingly endless details that have been carefully restored or replicated – from the silver doorknobs and hinges to the 24-karat gold leaf on the interior dome.

“The mansion is a jewel in our crown,” says Jane Sowell, executive director of the Milledgeville-Baldwin County Convention & Visitors Bureau. “I love having it here.”

The mansion was the residence of Georgia’s governors for more than 30 years. It was where Gov. Joe Brown was shaving in his third floor bedroom when Union soldiers came to arrest him. And, for a couple of days in November 1864, it was home to Gen. William T. Sherman, who claimed it as a prize on his march to the sea.

The restoration includes many details of life in the mansion, with furnishings and even personal items from the families of governors in bedrooms, drawing room, parlor and dining rooms. An education building was added on the grounds for tours groups and conferences.

The house is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Tours begin on the hour. Admission is $10. Curator’s tours are offered every third Tuesday for $15.