Sweetwater Creek State Park

I’ve recently discovered another state park gem in my beautiful home state of Georgia. What is this gem? Sweetwater Creek State Park. It is located in Lithia Springs which is just a hop, skip, and a jump from Six Flags.

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Now, you may be wondering why this is important. Well, my lovely children had the good fortune (or perhaps small fortune depending on which end of the spending spectrum you may be on) to acquire season passes to this awful…I mean wonderful…roller coaster thrill ride filled land of amusement.

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I myself, in case you haven’t caught on, am not a fan. As far as theme parks go, I would much rather spend my days searching for autographs from my favorite Disney characters or exploring the magical world of Harry Potter. However, since we don’t live in Orlando and since I prefer the natural world to the theme park world any day, I have acquired a season pass (well, really it’s a parking pass with a few benefits) to the Friends of Georgia State Parks. So, voila! Everyone is happy! I drop the kids off at Six Flags, and I head to a state park.

Now, you’re probably wondering why I didn’t figure this out at the beginning of theme park season. Well, unfortunately this was the hottest summer EVER (and trust me, because I’ve been a Georgia girl all my life), and I was suffering from an unknown illness all summer (not to worry, the source was discovered and easily treated, and I’m all better and ready for hiking season! Yay!). So, all that to say, it’s October, season of Freight Fest and every weekend trips to Six Flags (thanks to Rat Man and Cheese Boy, the dynamic duo cleverly disguised as my son and his best friend),

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and Mama needed a close-by place to go to find adventure and a bit of peace and quiet (because the “my son, Cheese Boy” part of that duo doesn’t want to take Enderchick, the minecraft warrior cleverly disguised as my daughter).

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Well, that and dear old Dad decided to get a season pass, too…For next year! For everyone! A whole year more of that dreaded theme park!

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So dear old tired Mama gets to drop half the crew off at that place and head to the woods. Good thing is, they all ride home together, so I don’t have to pick them up.

Ok, so back to my hidden gem. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect of this state park. It is one of the smaller ones and quite close to Atlanta. But like all of the state parks in Georgia, it did not disappoint. So far, I’ve hiked the same trail twice, but the view each time was amazingly different. The trail that I took was the Historic Trail and blazes red. It takes you down to the ruins of the old New Manchester Mill. This mill was built during the Civil War era, and unfortunately, it was not running for long. Soon after it began operation making textiles, Union troops captured the employees, sent them up north as prisoners of war, and burned the mill. The scorch marks from the fire can still be seen on some of the walls.

Now, this mill may have a tragic history, but that history has left some beautiful ruins for photographers like myself to hike out and photograph. The hike out to the ruins is about a half mile, give or take. The first time I went was after a long stretch of rain from Hurricane Joaquin on the coast. (In fact, that hurricane flooded Charleston, but that is a story for another day.) The creek’s water level was very high. Some of the areas where trails went were inaccessible due to the water level. However, it made for some lovely shots of rushing water. The water cascaded over large boulders (which I discovered on my next trip when the water level was back to normal).

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I managed a few good photos of the mill as well, but I couldn’t get very close to it due to the water level. The mill is situated right beside the creek, so the creekside of the mill was actually in the water that day.

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I hiked out past the mill to the end of the trail. After the mill, the trail gets a little more difficult with steep hills,

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slippery rocks,

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and narrow spots on the trail with some steep drops.

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However, it is worth the hike, because the view is gorgeous.

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Unfortunately, I was anticipating an easy hike, so I didn’t wear the right shoes. Needless to say, it made the trail harder to navigate and my feet hurt by the end. Western boots are for riding, not hiking. Hiking boots have a little more play in the sole for climbing those rocks.

When I reached the end of the trail and set up my tripod for some panoramas, the sky suddenly got very, very dark. I was caught in a sudden state of panic, because I was about a mile into the woods and not prepared for a storm. I snapped off some quick shots for a panorama that didn’t turn out at all, but I did get a shot for my monochrome photo challenge of a beautiful stump that had been shaped by the running water.

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When I felt a few rain drops, I hurriedly packed up my things, threw the rain cover over the backpack, and darted out of there…well, as much as one can dart on a wooded trail. By the time I reached the mill again, the ominous clouds had moved on and the rain threat dissipated. So, I slowed down a bit, retrieved my camera from the waterproof safety of its bag, and began the end of that day’s journey.

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I even found some cool fungi,

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a couple of interesting trees,

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and a great rock to relax on for a few minutes.

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The second time I went out to the park was the next weekend. The boys invited another friend along to Freight Fest and headed out early with our Expedition, and my husband and the girls (my daughter and her best friend, Shipwreck Samantha…check out her cool clay creations on Etsy) wanted to go up later, so I drove them out, dropped them off with the boys, and headed out to the park on this super clear, absolutely beautiful, fall day. It was a bit later in the day this time, so I only hiked out to the mill. As soon as I saw the creek, however, I was very much surprised. What was nothing but rushing water before was now a reasonable creek with boulders you could make your way across. So you know what this girl did…walked out on those rocks and got some close-up pictures! I traveled a little lighter this time…no pack, just my camera. I took the 55mm lens, so I wasn’t able to really zoom in. I was, however, able to get some good macro shots, up close and personal shots, and some great landscape views. I had my proper shoes on this time, so I was a bit adventurous with climbing up and down the sides of hills, venturing across the stream, and picking out those less traveled paths. I navigated across an off-shoot of the creek and traveled the path right next to the water on this trip.

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I was able to get right up next to those little waterfalls, and the water was calmer, so the golden hour reflections in the smoother water were magnificent! As I traveled further downstream, I found many amazing waterside views,

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and eventually, I stumbled upon a most spectacular view of the creekside of the mill. So of course this required a little trip out into the creek to get just the right shot. It also meant a short trip down a steep hillside, but there were plenty of rocks to help me down (and back up again when the time came).

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It was well worth the adventure, that is for certain! By the time I made my way back up to the front side of the mill, however, it was starting to get dark, so it was time to head back. Night was fully upon me as I exited the trail, and as I looked back, I saw a line of lanterns heading to where I had just been…a twilight tour to the mill. (I bet they had a blast. I wonder if they got to hear spooky ghost stories about that old place.”

So that was the end of my journey. Expect to hear more about this place in the future. There’s a five-mile trail out there I plan to do the next time.

Cruisin’ the Southeast: A Fall Break Adventure

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From home, to mountains, to coast, to home…that’s how our Fall Break goes. One of the great things about living in a coastal state in the southeast is that you are within driving distance of the beach and the mountains. And on a really ambitious adventure, you can do them both in the same trip. That’s what my daughter and I did this Fall Break.

We started our journey by heading up to Mount Airy, North Carolina for a wedding photo shoot. Now for those of you who don’t know (as I didn’t before this trip), Mount Airy was the birthplace of the beloved tv personality, Andy Griffith, and the basis for Mayberry, the town in that wonderful classic, The Andy Griffith Show. So, now my daughter and I can say that we spent a couple of nights in Mayberry. We didn’t get any pictures in the town itself or get a chance to really explore, so we have plans to return there one day. However, it was a very cute and quiet little town nestled in the mountains.

The purpose of our visit, however, was a wedding photo shoot. That took us out to the beautiful Rosa Lee Manor near Pilot Mountain. Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, it is a perfect place for a fall wedding. The property was beautiful, almost as beautiful as the couple getting married that day.

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We were doing the photo shoot for a friend of mine. Her daughter was “getting married” that day. I use quotes because they actually got married a year ago, but the big ceremony took place on this particular weekend a year later to celebrate their union with family and friends. The ceremony was lovely, and the family and all the beautiful young people were ready for a day filled with love and fun.

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The ceremony took place out at the gazebo with a beautiful view of the mountains behind. Complete with the yellowing leaves of fall, it was a scene that couldn’t be matched…quite the fairy tale wedding.

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And after the ceremony, the fun and festivities lasted well into the night. Feasting, dancing, and beautiful speeches by all filled the evening air.

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It was certainly a day to be remembered by all. I know that my daughter and I came away with beautiful memories…and a few great photos too (at least I hope the family thinks so).

But this was not the end for the mother/daughter team this Fall Break week. After the mountain wedding adventure, we took off for the beautiful coastal city of Charleston, South Carolina.

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Ahhh….Charleston. I must say, that of all the places in the southeast I have seen, this is by far one of my favorites. The culture is rich, the stories are hauntingly beautiful, and the city is magnificent. Just driving into the city makes me anxious to get my car parked away out of site and hit the streets walking and taking in the sights and sounds of this great city.

Getting the car parked, however, proved to be a challenge. The drop off at our condo was quite busy that Sunday afternoon. After circling the block about three times, we finally found a somewhat open spot to put the car for a moment to check in and get the keys to the valet. The last vestiges of this stressful experience soon melted away, however, as we carted our luggage through the courtyard to our beautiful unit.

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The fountain in the courtyard wasn’t operating on this particular week in October, but the lack of functionality allowed me to get a shot that I otherwise would not have gotten of the colors in the the center of the fountain bowl.

The courtyard scene that greeted us on arrival was one of iron tables, lounging guests sipping wine and laughing, and bicycles ready to be ridden down the streets of the city. After settling in to our unit, we freshened up and started walking in search of dinner. Of course debate soon ensued about the dining affair of the evening as I was not in the mood to have pizza for every meal, so I navigated us to the nearest Irish Pub and won the dinner debate…that time anyways. Tommy Condon’s was our dinner and entertainment provider that evening. We had a lovely meal and listened to a wonderful lady sing her Celtic tunes.

After dinner, we found some fudge to munch on and settled in for the evening to rest up for the next day’s adventure. I’m not sure when we headed out the next day, for sleeping in was the ultimate plan of the morning, but when we did, we hit the market first. The market was a wonderful place full of vendors of all sorts of things from mass market items to handmade crafts. The place was bustling and full of visitors. If ever you make it there, be sure to head by the wonderful smelling booth of The Old Whaling Company. I found some lavender and magnolia scrubs that smell divine and make my skin soft and fragrant. My daughter, of course, wanted just about everything she saw at the market.

After perusing the market, we headed to lunch…pizza of course (I didn’t win this time). The New York pizza place was just across the street from our condo, and the food was delicious. As we sat at the outside tables and waited on our lunch, we took a few photos along the street.

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After lunch, we wandered the streets and looked at the architecture and explored a graveyard or two.

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This graveyard was quite interesting. It was on a very small plot of ground, and all of the graves were very close together. (On the ghost tour that night, my daughter and I learned the difference between a graveyard and a cemetery, by the way. Little tidbit, a graveyard is a plot for graves attached to a church. A cemetery is usually larger and is not attached to a church.)

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One thing I found fascinating about this graveyard was that there were headstones everywhere. They were used as tiling in the walkways, and there were many attached to the base of the church. Several were attached to the wall surrounding the churchyard as well. I began to wonder if each marked an actual grave where a body was buried or if they were merely memorials of the long-ago deceased.

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There were some rather interesting scenes that I captured as well. This one interested me because of the three headstones framed by a low hanging tree branch.

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Later in the evening, we headed out for some night photography to fill our time before our scheduled ghost tour.

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We ended our evening with a ghost tour. The lovely husband-wife team, Maggy and Steve, at The Ghost Shop filled our evening full of haunting tales and unique history. We explored parks and alleys and discovered many more places to visit…on the next trip.

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Central State Hospital (Milledgeville, GA): Part 2

Back for more? Good! Hope you enjoyed that feature image. Did it feel like someone was staring out at you from the door? Well, let’s look closer.

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Hmmm…interesting capture. Is it a play of light, or is there really a giant eye staring out at us from the door? You decide. This wonderfully creepy old building is the Jones building. We drove over to this area around the pecan grove after leaving the Howell Building. This wasn’t the first building we saw, but it was certainly the most imposing. It seems to draw you toward it from across the grove.

Now, I haven’t discovered much about the history of each individual building on the campus, but in general, I have found some interesting history about the hospital. In 1904, there were 121 deaths due to tuberculosis, which ended in a cry from the staff for a facility to be built especially to treat this disease. And that same year, there was contamination in the water supply from Camp Creek resulting in an outbreak of typhoid fever. Also, throughout the years there were several deaths under suspicious circumstances and questionable practices such as electroshock therapy and lobotomies. Then, of course, with overcrowding and under-staffing, many a patient led a miserable existence behind these doors. So is someone hanging around, watching from the door, waiting for someone to return to take them home, waiting to warn others of danger, waiting to exact revenge, waiting to be seen and heard and known? Anything is possible with a history such as this.

But, like I said, this was not where we started, so let’s move back across the pecan grove to the Walker Building.

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The Walker Building is magnificent. It looks like a vine-covered castle. I could only get so close though as there were signs everywhere warning of unstable building and grounds. Alas, I was confined to the sidewalks, and even then only up to a certain distance.

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I did manage some photos of the vines creeping up the walls, some weathered windows, and some broken windows where you can see how the roof of the building has caved in and left the upper floor exposed to the elements.

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The front porch has also become weathered and worn over the years, and I’m sure serves as a wonderful backdrop for a spooky story or two.

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As you can see from this cornerstone, this building was erected in 1884. It served as the facility for white male convalescent patients. It was abandoned in 1974. It had a sister building across the grove that served as the facility for female patients. That facility has since been torn down and replaced with an auditorium. Only the front entrance portion of the building remains due to a cornerstone listing the names of some of the original founders of the institution. (There will be photos of this later.)

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A few photos through the windows give an idea of the rooms inside of this stately structure, as well as a glimpse of the damage of the elements over the years.

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The entrance to this facility, even though worn and overgrown, still maintains a welcoming appearance. This must have been one of the nicer facilities to be admitted to.

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Some of the other entrances, however, are maybe a little less inviting. We’ll leave those to the ghosts.

The building next door to the Walker building is the Green building. It is a large structure with enclosed porches along each side of the building.

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I included a color photograph here to give an idea of how the porches were constructed.

A curious thing I noticed when examining this building was that the glass in the windows at the apex of this building were shattered and gone. I’m not sure if this was due to storm damage or some other phenomena, but it gave the building a rather ominous appearance.

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There was one that remained, however, giving us a taste of the stately beauty of a bygone era.

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Today, however, the vines creep up the walls and within those walls the plaster peals.

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Next to the Green building is the chapel. The chapel is beautiful and appears to still be in use today. Service times are listed on the sign outside of the front of the building.

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After exploring the Walker building, the Green building, and the Chapel, we headed across the grove to the Jones building. Just as we were reaching the road, a security guard was driving by and stopped to chat. He had a lot of interesting stories to tell and offered suggestions of places to photograph. He also told us that this building was used by the crew of “The Originals”. Of course, living in the town where they film “The Vampire Diaries” (the show “The Originals” is a spin-off from), I had to hear about this. Apparently, the crew got permission to use the front entrance of the building for filming. The main entry and just beyond, where the building was more stable, was renovated for filming. The signs outside still remain forbidding entry beyond the sidewalk, however. The building and grounds still aren’t safe enough for the general public to walk around.

After chatting with the security guard for quite a bit, I got a few photos of this magnificent building…

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After visiting this building for a minute, we headed over to what was left of the female facility where there was the promise of a really interesting cornerstone.

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And this was the cornerstone bearing the name of the Georgia Lunatic Asylum. There was an event going on in the auditorium behind this building, so there was a good bit of foot traffic around the building. One man even asked if I thought the place was haunted…proof there are stories! This building, the name of which I cannot remember, had a lovely porch with impressive molding (no, not the fungus type…though I’m sure there was a fair share of that too).

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There was also an interesting spot to the rear of the building where a single brick was dislodged. I wonder why…

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And then around the corner…an eerie vine-covered staircase that led to a door in the basement. I venture a guess that the children that hang out at the auditorium have their imaginations go a little crazy with that one…

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The next building we came to, and we started moving fairly quickly due to losing daylight, was the museum. I only took one picture of this fairly new building.

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Now the next building to greet you around the corner I found to have a rather haunting presence about it. I do believe it rivaled the Jones building in the creep factor. This building is known as the Brantley building.

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I’m not quite sure why, but this particular building was not left open to the elements like many of the others. It’s windows were carefully boarded up. Are they trying to keep people out, or something else in? Hmmm…

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And the spider-like vine cover was hauntingly amazing!

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Fantastic!

And the last building we happened upon was the Powell building. This is a large white building that is still in use, and from what I understand was the first building on the campus.

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After this we headed out to one of the cemeteries. The acreage of the grounds was rather impressive; however, what struck me most was how scattered the few actual headstones were. I suppose the metal stakes we came upon at the head of the cemetery were once marking various graves throughout those grounds. Many of the remaining headstones had fallen into rubble and decay, but they were interesting nonetheless and at least marked the existence of the few who can still be identified.

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And on this All Hallow’s Eve…I leave you with a lovely photo of the moon…

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Oh, and you might want to check out some of these sites for some more history, information, and photographs…

Central State Hospital (CSH), Milledgeville, Georgia

http://themoonlitroad.com/milledgeville/

(use the custom google search bar on the left of their page to google central state hospital for even more stories)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Central_State_Hospital_(Milledgeville,_Georgia)

Also the Atlanta Journal and Constitution has some very good archived articles on this institution, one of which has quite a bit of interesting information:  Judd, Alan. “Asylum’s Dark Past.” Atlanta Journal and Constitution. Sunday, January 20, 2013. A1.

Payne, David H. “Central State Hospital.” New Georgia Encyclopedia. 03 September 2014. Web. 27 October 2014. (http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/science-medicine/central-state-hospital)

http://kingstonlounge.blogspot.com/2009/09/central-state-hospital-milledgeville-ga.html

Click to access cshmap.pdf

Central State Hospital (Milledgeville, GA): Part 1

Milledgeville, GA, once the capital city of our fair state, had by the time I came into being become known as the place where the “loony bin” resided. Now, I know that’s not politically correct, but it’s what people in these parts called it. The last thing you wanted was to be sent to Milledgeville. As a little girl, I was always curious about the place and frightened of it at the same time. I often imagined a town full of crazy people. As I grew older, I became aware of the fact that it was also the home of a good college, then Middle Georgia College (I believe it is now Georgia State College in Milledgeville or something like that). Over the years, I have driven by the city once or twice, but until the first part of this month, I had never really taken the time to explore. Now that I have, I will definitely be going back.

So what prompted my recent exploration? Well, my father-in-law has been doing some work out there, and after looking through some of my photography, he realized that I might really enjoy checking out the campus of Central State Hospital. And he was right!

One particularly beautiful Sunday afternoon, I went outside and told my husband, who was cutting grass, that my camera and I would like to go for a drive. He decided that he would go with me, so he put away the mower and off we went. But where would we go? Well, remembering the stories his dad told us about the hospital out in Milledgeville and knowing there were some great old buildings to photograph, we headed to Milledgeville.

Now, we headed there before I did the actual research on the place, so I didn’t realize that the campus consisted of over 1700 acres of land. That being said, the GPS found it a bit of a challenge to locate this place called Central State Hospital. Of course, one would assume that it would take us to the currently operational portion of the hospital or perhaps the museum, but good old Google Maps must know where I like to hunt, because where it took us was the Howell Building. (It must be familiar with my ghost hunting search history.)

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Now imagine this being the scene that greets you when you drive up to a spooky old abandoned hospital…behind a prison no less! My first thought was, “Patients go in, but they never come out.” Little did I know how true that thought was. Many a patient entered the walls of this institution only to spend the rest of their days there. Then, abandoned or forgotten behind the walls of this institution, left by family who didn’t know how to care for them or simply desired to be rid of them, many died with only a patient number, a file, and simple metal post to mark their existence.

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Approximately 25,000 souls lie beneath the grounds of this institution in the six cemeteries that dot the landscape. Between overpopulation and underfunding, it didn’t take long for this institution, originally named the Georgia State Lunatic, Idiot, and Epileptic Asylum, to begin losing patients due to disease, lack of care, and unfortunately mistreatment.

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So if you happen to be wandering around these grounds and feel like you’re not alone, it wouldn’t be surprising. Now, I can’t say that I saw any apparitions on this trip, but it certainly was a good place for haunts to hang out. That being said back to…

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While this was certainly not the oldest building on the site, it was quite interesting. It was also one of the few buildings you could walk all the way up to and really get a good look at and take some really great photographs. I decided shortly after arriving that black and white would be the way to go for this old place to add to the somewhat creepy ambiance…especially with Halloween coming up. Drawing from my memory bank of creepy horror stories about asylums and hospitals, you can only imagine the stories I was coming up with walking around this place. Especially when greeted with creepy scenes like this…

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Now, before you start thinking I broke into this old building, let me assure you, these photos were taken from safely outside through this bygone relic of vandals past…

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Unfortunately, broken windows were quite common with many of the buildings here. Also, due to the buildings being left to the elements and decay, completely missing windows and collapsed roofs were quite common as well, making many of the buildings unsafe to be entered. I hear there are portions that you can tour with permission, however, so I shall be making inquiries into that very soon.

The Howell Building was one of the newest of the abandoned structures and only fell into disuse in the early 1970s, yet it had its fair share of vine growth, broken windows, and general decay.

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As you can see, the cornerstone of the building puts the date at 1939, and apparently it was commissioned in 1940, so it was only in use for 30 to 35 years before being abandoned to the elements. And the elements have certainly taken their toll…

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Now, I want you to click on that last picture, because it is interesting. There’s a little white looking object in the second window from the top that I first thought was perhaps a smoke detector. On closer examination (zoom in), I realized it was a leather sofa. What is strange is that the brickwork from outside is reflected even to the contours of the sofa. It is propped up on its end with the back toward the reflection of the window from outside. I hope you can see it because it is fantastic. What I couldn’t figure out, however, is why the brickwork is reflected on the sofa the way that it is. If you have any insight, please feel free to post a comment.

Ok, now back to the rest of the photographs…

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And these last three of the Howell Building give a glimpse of some of the places where the roof has started collapsing…

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This was the start to a great adventure…however, this post has gotten long, so I leave you with piqued interest and those three dreaded words…

…to be continued….buahaha!

Savannah (Part 2: Architecture)

After leaving Bonaventure Cemetery, we dined at the Pirate House and then headed to our beautiful condo at The Studio Homes at Ellis Square. The unit was perfect, nestled right in the midst of the city. We could walk everywhere, and that is what we did. The valet parked the car, and we didn’t see it again until we left.

The view from the roof was beautiful…

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When we headed out the next day, the first place we visited was The Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Ascension. It was beautiful both inside and out. I took one nice shot before heading in…

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The first thing that catches your attention when entering the sanctuary is the beautiful stained glass window straight down the center aisle.

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More beautiful stained glass windows line the walls on both sides of the room and reflect in the beautiful baby grand piano sitting in the front left corner of the sanctuary.

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The altar at the front of the church is made of marble, as is the checker patterned floor.

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The pews are upholstered in a rich red fabric, and the intricately carved crown moulding looks as if it is laced in gold.

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And it is home to one of the most amazing pipe organs I have seen in person to date.

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And centered to the back of the sanctuary is yet another magnificent stained glass window.

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The Jewish temple was equally amazing, though I didn’t get a chance to visit the inside of this magnificent building.

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We walked along many of the streets and parks in Savannah, and each building and home seemed to me a precious piece of art. So much loving detail was placed into each one, it was awe-inspiring. I will simply show you a few that stood out to me.

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I simply loved the spindle like quality and the scroll patterns in the window pictured above. I took this photo for no other reason than it made me happy. 🙂

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And this building seemed to have a Grecian influence with the beautiful columns, intricate frieze, and blue and gold coloring.

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What struck me most about this particular carving was how far the head of the lady in the center leans out. It looks as if she can see right down to the sidewalk beneath her and watch all of the passersby.

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And all of the homes were simply beautiful. Even the row houses had a charming appeal.

I don’t know many architectural terms, but I do enjoy the beauty and hope that I have conveyed it well through my photographs. And tomorrow, I will give you my reflection on the life and energy of this great city.