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DESTINATION: GEORGIA

A quiet Southern town, writ large

Historic Milledgeville was home to Flannery O'Connor, and the inspirations for her stories still can be seen.

July 09, 2006|Ben Brazil | Special to The Times

Andalusia, open to the public since March 2003, averages more than 200 visitors a month, said Craig Amason, executive director of the Flannery O'Connor-Andalusia Foundation and the farmhouse's de facto tour guide. Some cry when they step onto the screen porch or when they see O'Connor's crutches leaning against the wardrobe in her bedroom, Amason said.

Urban sprawl has surrounded Andalusia, which was rural during O'Connor's lifetime. Standing next to the weathered wooden barn, you can hear announcements from a Ford dealership; the Wal-Mart Supercenter is less than a mile away. The peafowl, chickens, geese and swans that O'Connor collected are also long gone.

Still, the trees hide Andalusia from its surroundings, and it's easy to see O'Connor's characters here -- in the barn, crossing the pastures or ambling up the track from the highway. Even the sprawl evokes Mr. Fortune, the greedy grandfather of "A View of the Woods," who sells his daughter and grandchildren's lawn for a gas station.

Back in town, at the Memory Hill Cemetery, O'Connor is buried next to her mother, beside a vine-covered chain-link fence. But to find the author's spirit, there is probably no better place than downtown's Sacred Heart Catholic Church, where O'Connor attended Mass daily.

Visiting on Sunday, Laura and I watched incense swirl around the priest, the Bible and the host. Laura, a cradle Catholic, called the Mass "old school," and I felt a hint of the mystery.

O'Connor would have been pleased; we had followed her work to where she subtly, but insistently, pointed.

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Going to the source

GETTING THERE:

From LAX to Atlanta, Delta and Air Tran have nonstop service. United and Air Tran have direct flights (stop, no change of plane) and US Airways, American, Northwest, America West, United, Continental, Delta and Midwest Express have connecting service (change of plane). Restricted round-trip fares start at $288. Milledgeville is about 100 miles southeast.

WHERE TO STAY:

Antebellum Inn, 200 N. Columbia St.; (478) 454-5400, www.antebelluminn.com, is Milledgeville's best place to stay. This B&B, in a 116-year-old home combining Victorian and Greek Revival styles, has four-poster beds. Doubles $89-$129.

Hampton Inn, 2461 N. Columbia St.; (800) 426-7866 or (478) 451-0050, hamptoninnmilledgeville.com, is one of several hotels along U.S. 441 north of downtown. It has a pleasant dining area and an outdoor pool. Doubles $77-$82.

Best Western Inn & Suites, 2621 N. Columbia St.; (478) 453-2212, www.bestwestern.com, is across the highway from Andalusia, the O'Connor farm. All suite-accommodations. Doubles from $72.

WHERE TO EAT:

Cafe South, 138 W. Hancock St.; (478) 804-9988, cafesouth.com, offers elegant dining in an attractive downtown storefront with big windows. Dinner menu is heavy on seafood. Entrees $8.95-$18.95.

Pig in a Pit, 1835 N. Columbia St.; (478) 414-1744, is a local favorite for slow-smoked barbecue. Serves pulled pork, chicken, ribs and other barbecue favorites. Combo plates and barbecue baskets $4.50-$15.75; sandwiches $3.25-$4.

Velvet Elvis, 113 W. Hancock St.; (478) 453-8226, is a new and hip place on the main drag. The focus is on seafood, but the fried green tomato sandwich is fun. Entrees $13.50-$19.50.

O'CONNOR SITES:

Andalusia, 2628 N. Columbia St.; (478) 454-4029, www.andalusiafarm.org. Visitors can see the main house and other parts of the grounds. Suggested donation $5 per person.

Flannery O'Connor Room, the Museum at Georgia College & State University, 221 N. Clarke St.; (478) 445-4391, library.gcsu.edu/museum. Free.

Flannery O'Connor Collection, at the college's Library and Information Technology Center, library.gcsu.edu; (478) 445-0988, in the same building as the museum but with an entrance on the opposite side. Arrangements to visit the collection should be made as far in advance as possible (at least three weeks).

Memory Hill Cemetery, 300 W. Franklin St.; www.friendsofcems.org/memoryhill, is O'Connor's final resting place.

OTHER SIGHTS:

The Old Governor's Mansion, 120 S. Clarke St.; (478) 445-4545, www.gcsu.edu/mansion. Tours leave on the hour, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays and 2 to 4 p.m. Sundays; $10 for adults.

Georgia's Old Capital Museum, (478) 453-1803, www.oldcapitalmuseum.org, on the ground floor of the Old State Capitol, 201 E. Greene St. Admission $5 adults.

Central State Hospital, 620 Broad St.; www.centralstatehospital.org. Open only by appointment. Contact Terea Jacobs at (478) 445-4317.

Dodo's Pool Room, 128 W. Hancock St.; (478) 452-1512, with its snack counter and stools, feels like a piece of the 1950s.

Lockerly Arboretum, 1534 Irwinton Road; (478) 452-2112, www.lockerlyarboretum.org, has lovely paths winding past labeled examples of Georgia flora. Lockerly Hall, a gorgeous antebellum mansion, also sits on the grounds.

TO LEARN MORE:

Milledgeville Convention and Visitors Bureau; (800) 653-1804, www.milledgevillecvb.com.

-- Ben Brazil

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