- Adam Kincaid For the AJC
Telling the story of Georgia does not just entail the glorious history of being the last of the original 13 colonies or the bragging rights as the unofficial peach capital of the country.
Some the state's most notable landmarks that help tell the story are just downright strange but endearing all at once.
If you happen to still get a kick out of hopping in the car and loading up the kids to take on an investigation of some strange and amazing historical sites, here are a few of Georgia landmarks with bizarre backstories worth exploring.
Touch the haunted pillar of the lower market. Bonus: get tatted up.
214 Fifth St., Augusta
Sorting out the true origins of the "cursed" column on Fifth Street in Augusta might not be so easy. Legend is, if you attempt to move or destroy it, you'll die; the curse brought to bear more than a century ago as penance for the column's role -- despite it being an inanimate object incapable of human things like guilt -- as a whipping post for slaves.
The only problem with that theory is that the column is neither constructed from the original materials used in the Augusta market, nor located in its original spot; it was destroyed in a 1935 car crash and subsequently rebuilt, then moved to the corner of Fifth and Broad.
Still, probably best not to touch it just in case. However -- and this is key -- you can absolutely rest assured that the Haunted Pillar tattoo parlor next to the actual, ghostly column of certain death is 100 percent not haunted. And what better way to mark your time in Augusta spent examining a ghost column than with some fresh ink? If you go, here's one cool tattoo recommendation!
Marvel in Lilburn's finest Hindu architectural achievement at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir.
460 Rockbridge Road NW, Lilburn
Head out to Lilburn for a decidedly eastern architectural surprise rising out of the commercial sprawl; a $17 million gleaming Hindu temple constructed of Italian marble, Turkish limestone and pink Indian sandstone rising 72 feet from the earth to form its spires and domes above the 30-acre estate. No steel is used at all in the construction; nor any other metals. It was constructed in accordance with ancient Hindu architectural plans; the entire building essentially functions as a giant stone puzzle or Lego set, with construction teams literally snapping the parts together in assembly. The BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, nearly ten years old today, remains the largest traditional temple outside of India.
Do you like feats of humanity?
Here are some specs: five pinnacles, 86 decorative ceilings, 116 archways, 340 pillars, 34,000 carved pieces and more than 11,000 tons of stone were constructed over the course of 1.3 million man hours to form the temple, which is built to last more than 1,000 years.
The mandir is open daily for worship and to visitors of any faith.
Bask in the remaining shell-putty walls of Jekyll Island's Horton House.
Riverview Dr, Georgia 31527
Remember when Georgia was a colony?
One trip to Jekyll Island will help jog the memory. The ruins of the island's famous Horton House exist as a relic from the time when General James Oglethorpe arrived and founded Savannah, a fort and general expansion plans. Major William Horton (for whom the house is named) was the number two in Oglethorpe's hierarchy, and set up home base on Jekyll Island at the house that still stands today. He cut the island's first road, cleared fields and built a barn.
Only problem was, the Spanish felt as though they had already claimed the coastal islands as Spanish territory; on account of their religious missions having stood since basically the foundation of St. Augustine in the century prior.
That frustration is probably why the Spanish struck St. Simon's Island, burning Jekyll Island along with it. The house burned down, along with everything else built on the island. What was left when the smoke cleared, was the ruins of the Horton House's unique tabby-fie walls. There is no cost to visit the house today, other than the cost associated with getting onto the island.
Taste sweet freedom at the foot of a Titan I Missile in Cordele.
1815 E 16th Ave., Cordele
Halfway between Atlanta and Jacksonville, about as far from any true city center as you can get in Georgia, there's a nuclear missile.
It's all set up for you to make an easy I-75 South detour at Cordele to gander for yourself at the Cold War relic: the Titan I. Though its payload has since been retired, the missile was plunked down in Cordele all the way back in that steamy summer of '69. The missile stands 98 feet tall.
It wouldn't be south Georgia if the (hand-written) sign at the missile's base didn't proudly, incorrectly proclaim the site "Confederate Air Force Pad No. 1." To be clear, the Confederate Army disbanded sometime after the Lincoln administration and the sign was put up in the late 1960's. Less funny in context? Perhaps so. But it's still a nuclear warhead essentially on the side of I-75 halfway to Jacksonville. Stop the car, stretch and consider that (union) American military air supremacy.
Prepare your heart for the re-imagined Cyclorama.
130 West Paces Ferry Rd., Atlanta
In other "why are we celebrating the darkest parts of our metropolitan history" news, the Cyclorama has moved. If you were planning on taking a little side jaunt from your day at the zoo to check out the 100-plus-year-old painting in all its hyperbolic (literally, hourglass shaped) glory, well then you'll need a new way to commemorate the Battle of Atlanta. The Grant Park Cyclorama has packed up and moved. Forever.
Restoration efforts that began at the Atlanta History Center in early December of 2015 should be complete sometime in 2017 or early 2018; and the across-town (Grant Park to Buckhead) move for the 128 year old painting offers the History Center the chance to restore and recreate original visual perspective and detail in ways that the Cyclorama hasn't had in nearly a century. Soon (early 2017), restoration efforts will be open to the public as The Battle of Atlanta begins to rise up from its ashes and ascend into its true form. The benefit to all of this Cyclorama restoration work? Once complete, visitors will have the chance to take in The Battle of Atlanta from its originally intended perspective, take in vibrant colors long faded, and hold onto a slice of 1886, if only just for a moment.
1400 Patten Rd, Lookout Mountain, GA 30750
Sometimes marketing campaigns are weirdly successful, given the quality of creative. Why is the Aflac duck in any way effective? Why does every birdhouse and barn for three hundred miles around Atlanta say See Rock City? The answer is that it doesn't matter why these things work, just that they do.
Rock City goes like this: take one of the most naturally beautiful little slivers of the South (at Lookout Mountain) and dress it in the unabashed kitsch that is excessive garden gnome usage and whimsical up-lighting. As you work your way ever closer to the crown jewel at Rock City—the winding, beta-test course layout at the first mini-golf course in the history of mankind —you will find yourself whisked away into the fanciful possibility at "Fairyland."
If all of this sounds ridiculous, ask yourself why so many people proudly display the iconic three word slogan? If the whole place is such a goofy, ridiculous place, then why is it that SEE ROCK CITY remains— more than 100 years after Garnet Carter invented the concept of a residential community atop Lookout Mountain, and dissuaded others from settling with his decorating preferences —one of the centrally Georgian (and Tennessean, to be fair) slogans of all time?
The answer is simple. For all the "wow that's really kind of absurd," there is a certain charm. An authenticity. An honesty to it all. It has something kind about its spirit.