BALDWIN-RUFFIN-LANIER HOUSE (GEORGIA FEMALE COLLEGE)
Adjacent to the Cultural Center, we continue this walking tour with the Georgia Female Academy. This Greek Revival landmark is the only building remaining from the first of Madison’s schools developed expressly to enable female students to pursue higher education. The school was chartered in 1850 as the Madison Collegiate Institute and served as a finishing school for young white ladies. In 1851, it was renamed the Georgia Female College. This house, originally designed as the classroom building, included several large rooms for receptions and assembly. Soon it became the college president’s home when a new brick classroom building was constructed next door.
On July 25, 1861, many of the young white men of Madison, having formed the Confederate Panola Guards, gathered on the grounds of the Georgia Female College wearing sashes made by the young ladies. Miss Josie Thrasher stood and, “in a clear, musical voice in words befitting the occasion,” tendered them a flag to carry into battle. Classes were suspended during the war, and the school never completely recovered. After the classroom building burned around 1882, the college closed and this house became a private residence. In total, Madison had one male and one female academy and two female colleges, making Madison a regional center for education.
The Foster-Thomason-Miller house next door is a grand 1883 Victorian home that had beautiful plaster work and elegant trim throughout. It was built on the foundation of the burned Female College classroom building. At the time it was built, the local paper referred to it as “the most elegant country home in Middle Georgia.” Situated on 11 acres, the house measures 5000 square feet with 14-foot ceilings. The original elaborate interior was inspired by the tenets outlined in Oscar Wilde’s lecture on The House Beautiful, given by Wilde in Atlanta on July 4, 1882. Unfortunately, the home suffered a fire in 2001 and has been waiting for someone to purchase and restore it ever since.