Whether you’re looking for somewhere to start your trip in Madison or you want to be a tourist in your own town, our self-guided walking tour is the perfect stroll through Madison’s history!
This route guides you on a mile and a half, self-guided tour of the historic district. Go at your own pace and take in the beautiful historic homes and their stories. Charge your Fitbit, put on your walking shoes, and lets get in our 10,000 steps!
Our tour starts at the Welcome Center. Come on in to say hello and get more information about Madison and Morgan County. Prefer a paper copy? Turn to page 4 in the visitors guide to get an overhead view of the route!
Stop 1: Welcome Center
Erected in 1887, by Mr. Daniel Towns, to serve as a city hall and fire house. Madison’s earlier town hall, located elsewhere on the square, was so damaged in the 1886 Charleston earthquake that it was condemned.
The hook and ladder equipment were stored downstairs, while council meetings and daily business were conducted upstairs. The rooms at the rear of the building served as the calaboose, or town jail, as evidenced by the bars on the windows.
During the Great Depression, a new city hall was erected on North Main Street just around the corner from the old building. In the ensuing years, the structure housed various operations until the Chamber of Commerce Foundation purchased it in 1989 and rehabilitated it under the supervision of preservation architect Lane Green. The restored City Hall was honored by the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation as an outstanding example of adaptive reuse.
Stop 2: Morgan County Courthouse
This domed Neo-classical Revival red-brick “pile” building was designed by J.W. Golucke and Company, an Atlanta architectural firm that specialized in public buildings.
Built on a lot previously zoned residential, the grand new building opened in 1907. The new tower housed the Seth Thomas clock and bell that Madison resident Sarah Cook had donated a dozen years earlier for the old courthouse on the square.
When court is not in session, visitors are welcome to view the beautiful interior. This has been a popular building used for filming, most notably and recently in the 2015 movie Goosebumps, starring Jack Black.
Stop 3: Rogers House & Rose Cottage
The Rogers House is a fine example of a Piedmont Plain house form and predates the neighboring courthouse by almost 100 years. Land in Morgan County was distributed through the lottery system, and applicants had to be “white males over 18, orphans, or widows.” This lot was purchased in 1809 by Reuben and Elizabeth Rogers who built this house shortly after Madison’s incorporation.
In 1811, Rogers sold the property for $1,000.Three owners later, in 1817, Thomas Norris bought the house for $1,250. Norris had served in the American Revolution as a private in the Maryland regiment. He and his wife Sarah had nine children. Thomas died the following year but Sarah lived here until her death in 1824. The Norris Family added the two rear shed rooms in 1820. In 1868, Martin Richter bought the house, remodeling it in 1873 and adding the decorative front porch and some other details we see today. In 1886 Richter sold the house to John Hunter, whose family owned the place for over ninety years.
The adjacent Rose Cottage was built by Adeline Rose in 1891, in west Madison near the Georgia Railroad right of way. The house was saved, moved, and restored to serve as an example of a working class abode.
Rose was born to enslaved parents in September 1864, some twenty months after the Emancipation Proclamation and just over a year before Sherman’s March to the Sea effectively freed the slaves who had not yet benefitted from the Proclamation. When she built this house, Rose was a widow with two children. She supported her family by taking in laundry at fifty cents a load. For a time, she did washing and ironing for boarders at the Hardy House, owned by the mother of the famous comedic actor, Oliver Hardy.
Stop 4: Oliver Hardy & the Turnell Butler Hotel
Oliver Norvell Hardy, the consummate comedian of the team Laurel and Hardy, was a Madison boy – at least, for the first eight years of his life. The comedian’s given name was Norvell, the maiden name of his mother Emmie. Oliver, his father, was manager of the 1892 Turnell Butler Hotel that sat here at the corner of Jefferson and Hancock Streets.
Oliver and Emmie moved to Madison in 1891, and in January of 1892, Emmie returned to Harlem, Georgia and her family to have her baby, returning to Madison afterwards. On November 22, 1892, just two weeks short of his 51st birthday, Oliver Hardy, Confederate soldier, farmer, tax collector, and hotel manager, died suddenly of an apparent heart attack.
Oliver Norvell Hardy, only ten months old and the youngest of five, moved with his mom to a boarding house that she opened just a few blocks away. The Hardy House, as it was called, was situated near the depot in the current location of Town Park.
Stop 5: Courthouse Square
Walking back down Jefferson to the Welcome Center, the block to your left was the site of the town’s first courthouse. There was a wooden building which sat on what is now the post office block. Construction of the courthouse began in 1810 and was not completed until 1824.
It was torn down in 1837 and a new one was completed the following year. Unfortunately, that structure burned just a few short years later, in 1843. The stately third courthouse (pictured), this time built of brick, was erected in 1845. Despite having survived Sherman’s March and the great fire of 1869 that destroyed 42 other downtown buildings (mostly wooden), the old courthouse burned down in 1916, less than ten years after it had been outgrown and replaced by the current courthouse.
Stop 6: The Dovecote House
Continuing left on Main Street and just a few blocks up on the right, Isaac Walker built the Dovecote house around 1830 for his daughter Cornelia and her husband Thomas Jefferson Burney. Though this was a mere 20 years after the founding of Madison, archaeological digs here have uncovered evidence of several buildings on the lot before this home, including a tavern.
The story is told that, during the 1869 fire that destroyed downtown, this house was saved by covering the roof and walls with wet carpets and blankets, keeping sparks from igniting the structure. The original appearance of this house is unknown but was most likely Federal in style.
Sometime around 1895, Martin L. Richter renovated the home, giving it the effusive architectural details we see today. It was during this time that the dovecote, seen in the side yard, was constructed. Dovecotes, or pigeon houses, were used to raise squab for the dinner table. Also on the property but now gone was a “five hole” privy decorated in the same style as the house.
Stop 7: Heritage Hall
Heritage Hall is one of the finest of Madison’s antebellum homes. Research indicates Dr. William Johnston, a wealthy land owner in Morgan and surrounding counties, may have built the house as early as 1811 in a much simpler form than we see today.
He sold the property in 1830 to Dr. Elijah Evans Jones, who expanded the house and gave it its Greek Revival style. Dr. Jones, a prominent physician in Madison, began his career as a medical doctor at the young age of 22 with only one year of medical school. Dr. Jones was chairman of the board of trustees of the Georgia Female College in Madison and a major shareholder in the Georgia Railroad.
Heritage Hall was originally part of an in-town farm on four acres. Prior to 1912, the house stood about 200 feet south of its current location, when it was moved to make room for the new Methodist Church building. The entire home was lifted, placed on logs, and pulled by teams of horses and mules to its new foundation. In 1923, Steve Turnell opened the house as the Traveler’s Inn, which operated for about ten years. Mrs. W. Manley purchased the house in 1946 and lived there until her death in 1977. Her granddaughter deeded it to the Morgan County Historical Society.
Stop 8: Baptist and Methodist Churches
Madison’s Baptists built the red brick church in 1858 to replace their original wood frame structure that was located on Academy Street. The bricks for the building were made by slaves on the plantation of John Byne Walker, a wealthy church member and land owner. Every brick bears the imprint of the name “Walker.”
The handsome memorial windows were added in 1906, and the Neoclassical portico with its Corinthian columns were added during this era as well. Among prominent local ministers who have filled the pulpit was the Rev. David Butler. Rev. Butler served as state senator in 1866 and was a trustee of old Mercer College and later of the college now known as Brenau.
By the early 20th century, the congregation of the First Methodist (now the Episcopal Church at stop 23) had outgrown its Gothic building on Academy Street. A building campaign led to the 1914 construction of a fine new building unlike any of the more traditional churches in town. This elegant Madison example features a classical Greek cross design, with the sanctuary situated under a large dome and a smaller cupola-like dome on top of that. The church’s Main Street and Central Ave facades incorporate Roman Tuscan columns supporting ornamental pediments with broad entablatures.
Stop 9: Magnolia House and Presbyterian Church
Nestled between the Baptist and Presbyterian churches sits “The Magnolias.” As seen today this private home presents a fine specimen of the Queen Anne style house inside and out. At the core of the 1898 makeover, however, lies a two-room, central chimney house dating at least to 1839 The original owner was John Robson.
In 1853 Dr. William Burr, a Philadelphia dentist who had recently moved to Madison, purchased the house. He made a small addition by attaching a dependency which probably served for a time as his dental office. Burr married the niece of Joshua Hill, Madison’s famous congressman, mayor, and U.S. senator. Just up on the left, the stucco brick Presbyterian Church on South Main Street was completed in 1842 by the skilled mason Daniel Killian.
The original charter had an interesting clause which forbade any portion of the purchased land to be used as a burying ground. It is of Greek Revival style architecture, with three entrance doors and squared belfry.
Stop 10: Jessup-Atkinson House
This was home to two of Madison’s most interesting citizens, Mr. and Mrs. Paul Atkinson. Mrs. Atkinson had been Miss Lulu Hurst, once known as the “Georgia Wonder Girl,” whose feats of mind-over-matter strength were legendary. Born in 1869 in Cedartown, Georgia, she became, as a teenage girl in the 1880s, a brief international sensation. Always chaperoned by her father, she did mysterious stunts of lifting, and one of the towns to which she brought her act was Madison. It was a local boy with dramatic flair, Paul Atkinson, who introduced the slender titan to the audience.
Sufficiently impressed, her father hired Atkinson to become his daughter’s business manager. She grew tired of being a traveling female curiosity and fell in love with Paul Atkinson. They married and moved to Madison to this home and became leading citizens.
Stop 11: Madison-Morgan Cultural Center
Education has long been dear to the citizens of Madison. Education moved from the private sector to the public realm in 1893 when Madisonians approved the creation of a city school system with only three dissenting votes. This school building was constructed for white students, and a frame building was erected for black students across the tracks.
Tinsley & Wilson of Lynchburg, Virginia designed this architectural gem with rounded arches, a central bell tower, and touches of classical details that were characteristic of the Richardsonian Romanesque style, then popular for college and school buildings. Nicholas Ittner of Atlanta was contracted to build the structure, which included a stunning auditorium lit by electricity, new to Madison in 1890.
The building served as a public school until 1957. In the early 1960s, the Morgan County Foundation was formed with the purpose of securing the building and making it available to the public. It became the public library for a time but was again vacated when a new library was built in the early 1970s. The Madison-Morgan Cultural Center opened its doors to the public for the first time on July 6, 1976. In addition to the original auditorium, the building now contains art galleries, a small museum, a restored school room, a display of arts and crafts furniture, and a gift shop.
Stop 12: Baldwin-Ruffin-Lanier House
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. 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 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.”
Stop 13: The Fitzpatrick House
Old Madisonians may refer to the home, built in 1852, as “The House of the Three Brides.” It was built for a bride, and the next two owners were also newly married couples. The original front of the house faced Old Post Road but when Monroe Street became Main Street, the columns were added across the back to make it the front.
Tales have long been told that the ghost of an enslaved girl named Mathuda inhabits this house; she can make her presence known by knocking the slats out of a bed. Visitors must decide on their own if such spirits actually exist!
Stop 14: Hunter House
For this “High” Victorian home, let’s tell a love story. It is about a young man who fell in love when he was 20 with a girl who was only 12. He had to wait for her to grow up and go to finishing school. During those “finishing” years, he wrote to her faithfully. All of his letters had to be read first by the head mistress to be sure nothing improper was going on. Finally, the great day came when the young man could claim his bride.
Together they completed this house in 1885. All the Victorian (“gingerbread”) trim was designed and made locally at the Atkinson Variety Works, as was the case with the trim on many of these fine homes. Inside the house, the same gingerbread trim is found on the stair railing and an upstairs mantel. Hunter’s son, who inherited the house, waited even longer for his bride than his father had; he did not take a wife until he was 72. His bride was Evelyn Sanders-Brightwell, a local lady who had been a widow for nineteen years at the time of their marriage. Miss Evelyn made the house a showplace and lived here until the age of 103.
Stop 15: La Flora
When you arrive at Walton Street, we’ll take a right and walk a block up to La Flora. This is one of the few houses in town with shiplap siding, and certainly the only one with such a decorative design. The Madison Garden Club, founded in 1893 and thought to be the second garden club founded in Georgia, was reorganized around 1932 in this home by Mrs. R. H. Richard and was renamed La Flora Garden Club.
When the Charles Cartwright family, previous owners, learned this, they named their home La Flora to honor the garden club. The small house in the backyard was once five blocks closer to town behind the Dovecote House. It was moved to this location and restored as a guest house.
Stop 16: Oak House
Built in 1898, the stately home to your left is one of the younger historic homes in Madison. Lee Trammell built it as a home for his wife and three children. There had been an earlier home on this location, owned by the Evans family, that was destroyed by fire. After the fire, only the kitchen of that house remained and it was attached to the new Trammell house.
The present home’s front façade is said to be almost a duplicate of the earlier structure. It is the Greek Revival style of architecture one expects to see in the old south of Gone with the Wind. The ceilings are high, the rooms are 20’x20’, the stairs are massive, and the halls are extra wide. Mr. Trammell’s daughter sold the home after the death of both her parents, but 13 years later bought it back and lived there until her death in 1975. The next owner expanded the house tremendously in the late 1990s, including a large addition at the rear which more than doubled the size of the house. They also added a pool and guest house.
This house has been used for filming in the television shows Vampire Diaries and its spin-off show, The Originals.
Stop 17: Godfrey-Hunt House
Moving on to Academy Street, the Godfrey-Hunt home, which currently boasts a lovely southern veranda, was built in Madison’s first subdivision carved out from a portion of the Town Commons. Its lot was purchased in 1838, changed hands a few times, and was eventually inherited by Mary Perkins Walton from her father’s estate. It was Mary’s husband, Dr. Godfrey, who built this house in 1875.
In the early 1920s, the house was significantly remodeled following plans developed by Neil Reid of the Atlanta architecture firm Hentz, Reid, & Adler. The firm is known in the Southeast for their Beaux-Arts style and as the founding fathers of the Georgia School of Classicism. The current owners, the Hunt family, still operate the Godfrey Seed Company, which was founded by J.E. Godfrey in the late 1870s.
Stop 18: Newton House and Town Commons
The Newton home was built immediately after the first structure on the site burned in 1849. It is a classical Antebellum type home boasting beautiful columns, wide halls, large rooms, and winding stairs. The previous building was the Madison Female Academy. The house we see today immediately replaced the old school. It was built by Carter Shephard who occupied it for 17 years. The next owner was the widow Electra Carter. She was the great aunt of Mr. Edward T Newton who took possession in 1944, thus establishing over 100 years of family ownership
This field of pecan trees on your left is the only remaining open space of the once large, unplatted area known as the Madison Town Commons. In 1809, the same year that the town of Madison was incorporated, five men got together and built a horse racetrack on or near this property. The track remained until the 1830s when the land was subdivided. The area today runs from Porter Street, down Fourth Street, to Walton Street, and back up Academy Street to Porter.
Some of the first settlers into Madison were wealthy planters who brought with them ‘blooded horses,’ which they were eager to show off, race, and ride. They enjoyed going to town with their prancing horse hooked to a sporty two wheeled “gig” or carriage. This open space was not just for horse racing; it was also a field for military training. The General Militia Acts directed that all male residents from eighteen to forty-five years old enroll in their district company and perform regularly scheduled drills at the designated unit muster ground. This space was the muster ground for General Militia District 276, also known as the City District.
Stop 19: Stagecoach House
In the days when the stage coach ran from Richmond, Charleston, and Augusta on its way to New Orleans, it passed through Madison directly by this house. Though this house lot was created as part of the 1837 subdivision of the portion of the Town Commons, the framing and millwork in the front portion of the house point to a construction date between 1810-1820, suggesting the house was moved to the site.
Also added to the front at that time were one story wings perpendicular to the front of the house. Located on either end of the front portico, each had a door opening onto the porch. Lady stagecoach passengers refreshed themselves in one wing and gentleman in the other. In 1919, the wings were removed and put together to make the sweet little cottage next door with two front doors.
By 1840, the Georgia Railroad had reached Madison from Augusta and stage coach travel began to dwindle as did business at the inn. However, boarding was still needed for the teachers and students of Madison’s academies and female colleges. In fact, Rev. Wittich served as the superintendent of the Madison Female Academy one block away and was a charter member of the Madison Female College two blocks away. It is likely some of his students boarded here. One window pane bears the names of several young women etched in the glass with their diamond rings, a tradition used to test the authenticity of the diamond.
Stop 20: Joshua Hill House
Joshua Hill, a member of the US House of Representatives at the time of secession and mayor of Madison during the war, was very much opposed to secession by the Confederate states. During the Union’s occupation of Atlanta, he met with Sherman for the purpose of claiming the body of his son who had been killed in battle in North Georgia. Hill’s introduction came by way of Sherman’s brother, John, with whom Hill had served in Congress.
While it is rumored that Sherman promised to spare Madison during their meeting, there is no evidence to support this. At dawn on Saturday, November 19, 1864, Sherman’s left wing under the command of General Slocum entered Madison by way of Old Post Road Seeing Mr. Hill with Gen. Slocum very often and seeing that the General always heeded the suggestion of Mr. Hill, they obeyed the Mayor of Madison just as they did their own General.
By pursuing the course which he did, Mr. Hill rendered the people of Madison a great service for which he deserved credit. Although homes were spared, the troops did burn the depots, doctors’ offices, cotton warehouses and gins, and anything that would support the conduct of war. Although the northern wing of the march also left most private homes untorched in other towns as well, most historians find it plausible that Hill’s Unionist sentiment and his manifestations to Slocum may have been especially helpful in saving Madison.
Stop 21: Stokes-McHenry Home
This is the only home in Madison that has been in the same family since the 1820s, with eight generations occupying the house. For many years, it was the family’s plantation town house with a large smoke house, scuppernong arbor, and a row of slave quarters to the rear of the house. The house was enlarged around 1840 and the style changed from Federal to a Greek Revival style. Ten years or so later, the exterior was embellished with Italianate details.
Stop 22: Broughton-Sanders-Mason House
In the early twentieth century, a sweet, gentle lady known to her neighbors as “Miss Dena” lived here as a recluse. She allowed the trees, shrubs, and boxwood to grow unattended for so long that the yard looked like a dark jungle. It was a scary adventure for the paper boy, who lived across the street, when he went to collect. However, he soon learned not to fear the lady or her jungle as she often invited him in for cookies.
When C.R. Mason, Sr. bought the place, there was a great change: everything was repaired and painted, all the bushes were cleared, and the shrubs were pruned. The boxwood were so severely cut back that neighbors thought they would die, but survive they did. Mrs. C.L. Mason, who was in her late 80s, made the place a thing of beauty inside and out. The house was sold in the 1990s and the new owners made many changes, including adding the tennis courts and the semi-detached garage.
Stop 23: Episcopal Church of the Advent
An 1824 act of the Georgia Legislature laid off three lots of land in the commons for the Methodists, Presbyterians, and Baptists. The Methodists were the only congregation to build on their lot and constructed this building in 1844. The building was vacant for a number of years after they moved into a new building in 1914.Before being purchased by the Episcopalians, a Christian Science group used the building in the 1950s.
The revived Madison Episcopal congregation purchased the building and remodeled the interior in a style typical of low country Episcopal churches. They also converted the Victorian era house next door into a Federal style parish house. They have shared their sanctuary with other small denominations such as Catholic and Lutheran.
In all, the church has served five denominations. Several famous people have passed through the doors of this church – Rebecca Latimer Felton, the first U.S. woman senator; Bishop Andrew, the first Methodist minister to be made a Bishop in Georgia; and Dr. Alexander Means, president of Emory College and holder of a doctorate in both medicine and theology.
Stop 24: Boxwood
This is the house known as “Boxwood,” which was built for Wilds Kolb in 1850. The boxwood gardens around the house, said to have been designed by an English landscape architect, followed soon after. Mr. Kolb was very selective for his home in both material and design. His was the first home in Madison to have a hot water system and a “built in” bathroom. The third floor, with its frieze-band windows, is an unfinished attic with fireplaces. There, family treasures were stored and children played on rainy days. Much of the wood in the house is black cyprus, which does not warp and decay as does pine.
Around the doors of both entrances is Bohemian glass. One pane is scratched with the words “A. Felts”, which it is said was done by a Union solider in Sherman’s Left Wing. Only three families have owned the house – the Kolbs, the Pous, and the Newtons. The parlor furniture and drapes put in the house by the Kolbs in the 1850s were traditionally passed with the house for 130 years. Miss Kittie Newton, who lived in the home for 93 years, kept the outside shutters closed so as to prevent the lovely green satin drapes from fading in the sunlight. After Miss Kittie’s death, her nephew donated the drapes and furniture to the Madison-Morgan Cultural Center where they are on exhibit.
Stop 25: Calvary Baptist, African American Museum, & Roundbowl Spring Park
From 1833 to 1858, this lot was the original site of the Madison Baptist Church before it moved to its present location on Main Street. After the close of the Civil War, the Madison Baptist Church passed a resolution stating the following: should the black members of the church desire to organize a separate church, the congregation would aid them in doing so. In 1866, Calvary Baptist Church was formed and the congregation met in a wooden building at the end of Hill Street until their new building was completed. Using member labor, construction began in 1876 and was completed in 1883. Next door to the church you will see the Morgan County African American Museum.
John Wesley Moore was born in January 1862 in the last years of slavery, and lived to be forty-six years old. He married Dora Gordon on November 21, 1881, and they lived in a tenant house on land owned by a white farmer, James A. Fannin. The couple’s first child was born in October 1883. On April 10, 1890, Wesley Moore bought five acres of land as by that time he and his wife had four children. On October 31, 1899, Fannin deeded Moore forty-one acres of land “for five dollars in consideration of the service he has given me.” After Moore died in 1908, his widow inherited his land and other property. She lived in this house until her death in 1932. In 1989, this simple Folk Victorian one story frame house was moved from the Moore farm, two miles south of town, to its current location. The house was restored for use as the Morgan County African-American Museum.
Preservation of public springs was one of the first responsibilities of the newly incorporated town’s officials in 1809.Early efforts prohibited cutting timber within 60 yards of the spring and required keeping the fence around the spring lot in good repair. Bathing and washing clothes in the spring were also banned. This public spring, which for hundreds of years sent forth a bold, steady stream of pure, cold water, was the reason Madison’s founders chose to establish the court house, public buildings, and consequently the town at this place. Planted with indigenous flora, the park encompasses the “Spring Lot” through which the original public spring once flowed. The spring joins springs from adjoining properties and from Main Street’s ridgeline to create Tanyard Branch, named for the 1830s tanyard (tanning yard) that operated a little further down the watercourse.
Marking the new millennium, the City of Madison preserved the town’s birthdate by investing in a linear greenspace, complete with an elevated walk that affords a view of the branch and its confluence of springs. Spring Walk traverses the watercourse, passes a brick and granite Civil War era railroad culvert, and loops up through the City Cemetery – a series of historic cemeteries and the town’s largest open space.
Stop 26: Town Park
The block that now encompasses Madison’s Town Park was once populated with several houses. With the coming of the railroad, sited just beyond this area, several of these homes were pressed into other services such as boarding houses and the Southern Express office. The non-historic structures were demolished and fundraising for the creation of a greenspace began. Individuals, families, and foundations gave generously, while professionals and businesses provided in-kind support. An emphasis on heritage design inspired a recast of the Cooke Fountain from the original factory design and the recreation of a Victorian Gazebo (both from the original town square).
The park also includes a Neoclassical pavilion and Park Cottage restoration. Town Park is Madison’s bicentennial legacy and downtown landmark. It provides an outdoor event venue, civic gathering ground, and greenspace for relaxation. –It was dedicated in 2009 and has hosted a myriad of popular events and festivals each year since its opening.