Georgia is a state rich in history and culture, and one of its most remarkable landmarks is the Old Governor’s Mansion in Milledgeville. This elegant building was the official residence of eight governors from 1839 to 1868, and witnessed some of the most turbulent events in Georgia’s history, such as the Civil War and Reconstruction. Today, the mansion is a museum and a National Historic Landmark, and it showcases the beauty and craftsmanship of the Greek Revival style of architecture.
The Construction of the Mansion
The Old Governor’s Mansion was built in 1839 to a design by Charles B. Cluskey, an Irish architect who was one of the most prominent builders in the antebellum South. Cluskey was hired by the Georgia legislature, which resolved to construct the first official residence for the governor in 1835. The mansion was located in Milledgeville, which was the state capital from 1807 to 1868.
The mansion cost $60,000 to build, which was a considerable sum at the time. The mansion was constructed with brick and stucco, and featured a portico with six Ionic columns, a central dome, and a symmetrical floor plan. The mansion had 30 rooms, including a grand staircase, a dining room, a drawing room, a library, and a ballroom.
The mansion also had a sophisticated indoor plumbing system, which was a rare amenity in the 19th century. The mansion was furnished with elegant and expensive pieces, such as mahogany furniture, marble mantels, crystal chandeliers, and silk curtains. The mansion was surrounded by a formal garden, a carriage house, and a slave quarters.
The Governors Who Lived There
The Old Governor’s Mansion was home to eight governors and their families from 1839 to 1868. The first governor to live there was George R. Gilmer, who served from 1839 to 1841. He was followed by Charles J. McDonald, George W. Crawford, George W. Towns, Howell Cobb, Herschel V. Johnson, Joseph E. Brown, and Thomas H. Ruger.
Each governor left their mark on the mansion, adding or changing some features according to their taste and needs. For example, Governor Crawford added a library and a greenhouse, Governor Cobb added gas lighting and wallpaper, and Governor Brown added a fence and a fountain. The governors also hosted many distinguished guests at the mansion, such as President James K. Polk, General Robert E. Lee, and General William T. Sherman.
The Historic Events That Took Place There
The Old Governor’s Mansion witnessed some of the most historic events that shaped Georgia’s history, especially during the Civil War and Reconstruction. The mansion was the scene of political debates, social gatherings, and military strategies. The mansion also faced threats and damages from the war. In 1864, General Sherman captured Milledgeville and occupied the mansion for two days.
He spared the mansion from burning, but he looted and vandalized some of its contents. He also held a mock legislative session in the mansion, where he and his officers pretended to repeal Georgia’s secession from the Union. After the war, the mansion was the headquarters of the federal military governor, Thomas H. Ruger, who oversaw the reconstruction of Georgia. He was the last governor to live in the mansion, as the state capital was moved to Atlanta in 1868.
The Preservation and Restoration of the Mansion
After the state capital was moved to Atlanta, the Old Governor’s Mansion was sold to Georgia Military College, which used it as a dormitory, a classroom, and an administration building. The college preserved the mansion and its grounds, and prevented any major alterations or demolitions. In 1967, the mansion was designated as a National Historic Landmark, and in 1973, it was opened to the public as a museum.
The museum displays the original furnishings and artifacts of the mansion, as well as exhibits and programs that tell the story of the mansion and its inhabitants. The museum also underwent a major restoration project from 2001 to 2004, which restored the mansion to its original appearance and condition. The restoration project won several awards and recognition for its accuracy and quality.
The Old Governor’s Mansion in Milledgeville is more than 100 years old and just as beautiful as the day it was made. It is a testament to the history and culture of Georgia, and a showcase of the Greek Revival style of architecture. It is also a witness to the lives and events of the governors who lived there, and the challenges and changes they faced. The mansion is a treasure that has been preserved and restored for the enjoyment and education of the public, and it is worth a visit for anyone who appreciates history and beauty.