Americas Georgia – Habitat for Humanity

We arose early and headed to Americus, Georgia (population 17,041) and surrounding areas on February 8th, our last day at Montezuma. Americus was founded by General John Americus Smith. While he was out on a scouting mission with his men he realized that there was a distance between towns so he came back in 1825 and purchased the land that would become Americus. The town was a simple courthouse town until the arrival of the railroad in 1854.

Our first stop was the welcome center on Lamar Street, where we got some recommendations of must sees and a helpful young woman gave us a couple of maps for self guided tours of the town. More about the maps later.

The Windsor Hotel on Lamar Street was practically next door so we stopped in. It is a spectacular five story Victorian hotel that was built in 1892. Many dignitaries, stars and GANGSTERS stayed there over the years. Most notorious was Al Capone who stayed in a suite for extended periods with his mistress. John Dillinger was another of notoriety that stayed on occasion. Locals have many stories to tell about their stays, including that a man still living in Americus is the son of Al Capone. More hotel info here:

A Thunderbird car show was in town. Look at all the lovelies above.

After the hotel tour we pulled out our new trusty self guided tour maps. I could not for the life of me read them. Frustrated I handed one of them over to Ray. We discovered that the maps were printed upside down and backwards. We honestly tried to follow them and ended up seeing a lot of 1800 homes despite the maps. I started calling this adventure the “snake eyed tour.” That name has stuck for other things that we have encountered on our trip. Funny….

We needed a break so we went over for a late lunch at Gladys’ Kitchen. It did not disappoint. For $7.75 you get a great home-cooked meal with choice of one meat, two veggies, bread, and dessert. I could have licked my plate! The butter bread was the best. Well, everything was good but that butter bread, good lord!

My meal was fried chicken, collards, black-eyed peas with limas, corn muffin, and blackberry cobbler. Ray had the fried chicken, peas and limas, fried okra, corn patty, and that scrumptious butter bread. I understand that Governor Deal and his wife eat there when in town. It is a great experience and the staff makes you feel like family.

Americus is the home of Habitat for Humanity. We toured the global village were copies of homes that are built all around the world (70 countries) are on display. Linda and Millard Fuller developed the concept for Habitat for Humanity while living at Koinonia Farm, an interracial Christian community farm outside of Americus. The farm was founded by farmer and biblical scholar Clarence Jordan in 1942. President Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter have been instrumental in raising awareness of this wonderful effort. The first international house was built in Zaire in 1973-1976, three years. When the Fullers returned to the USA they started Habitat for Humanity International in 1976. They have helped 13 million people through affordable housing. More info here:

It had been a long day of history and learning. We headed to camp to contemplate the things we had seen and learned. We were also thankful that the snake-eyed tour was over.

Ocmulgee National Monument / Hay House

February 4th day trip to Ocmulgee memorial to the peoples of antiquity. 17,000 year record of human life on the Macon Plateau. This place felt sacred and the artifacts and mounds of these people were breathtaking. This is a 702 acre site with Temple, ceremonial earth lodge, and funeral mounds. Most artifacts are from the years 900-1200.

These people were known as Creeks and are from the Mississippian period. We spent hours exploring these wonderful artifacts.

Me at the entrance to the Ceremonial Earth Lodge Mound.

View of Ceremonial Earth Lodge

Inside Ceremonial Lodge. The floor is 1000 years old.
Chieftains seat inside ceremonial lodge. Eagle effigy carved in floor in front. Once a year the sun shines through the door and highlighted where the chief sat. Truly this meant that he was THE Chief!
Ray going up to the Temple Mound.
Ray on steps to the Temple Mound.
View of Macon from the Temple Mound.
Enjoying the weather and the top of the Temple Mound.
The funeral mound with more than 100 graves. Much of this mound was lost when the railway went through in the 1830s.

After hours learning about human history, we moved on to tour the Hay House historic site in Macon. They Hay House is a beautiful 17,000 square foot marvel, built from 1855 to 1859 in the Italian Renaissance Revival Style, with all the modern conveniences. It was built by William Butler Johnston. He also became the keeper of the Confederate Treasury. There are rumors that Confederate gold is hidden in the walls and secret places of this home. To date, no one has found it. Johnston married at the age of 40 and took his bride on a 3 year honeymoon (called a grand tour) in Europe. The design for the house and the furnishings came from those travels.

Back of Hay House 1.
Back of Hay House 2.
Bryon Stained Glass in Stairwell.

Formal Dining Room.
Pantry Door from dining room.

Ball Room.
Double Living Room.
Sitting Room.

This ended our day. One of the takeaways from our two days in Macon: The people are the some of the most friendly and gracious that I have encountered in a very long time. Looking forward to what our tours tomorrow will bring.