Story and photos by Will A. Davis & Mary Gallagher
Not far from Atlanta or Charleston you’ll find charming Washington, Georgia and this Washington has the distinct accolade of being the first of the hundreds of towns, cities and counties named after our first US president, the incomparable George Washington.
This incredibly pleasant and picturesque southern town in Georgia has the highest number of antebellum houses per capita of any place in the United States. Located in Wilkes County, Georgia only fifty miles from either Augusta or Athens, it is a small town that has so much to offer visitors and there’s a photo op around every corner!
The centerpiece of activity is the recently redesigned town square where a lot of seasonal and everyday action seems to originate. The friendliness of the locals is so infectious that you’ll easily find directions and advice on visiting and even be included in a local cafe’s breakfast conversations. We loved our few days here and have some suggestions for your visit to the area and there is even more that I’m sure we missed.
Starting with History:
The Battle of Kettle Creek was the only battle of the Revolutionary War that the patriots were able to claim victory as American Colonels Andrew Pickens and John Dooly defeated British forces after a fierce and furious three hour battle on February 14,1779.
The Kettle Creek battlefield, a wooded area, including “War Hill” is now a 40 acre tract encircling a 500 foot high hill. The Georgia Historical Commission placed two historical markers in 1958 atop the hill and in 1962, 1973, and 1974 additional monuments were placed and some Revolutionary soldiers reburied atop the hill. Kettle Creek Battlefield is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Each February the site hosts history aficionados from throughout the country at Revolutionary Days with a parade, battle reenactments, and pageantry.
The Washington Historical Museum
The Washington Historical Museum offers a wonderful explanation of the cities history and Wilkes County. The museum was originally built circa 1835 by Albert Gallatin Semmes as his home on land owned by Revolutionary war hero, Micajah Williamson’. In the 1950’s the City of Washington acquired the house and it underwent a two year restoration project. The house contains many fully furnished rooms, authentically decorated with antiques dating to the mid 1800’s.
This is a must stop!
The Robert Toombs House
The Robert Toombs House is especially valuable to those seeking Confederate history as Toombs was one of the most fiery of the “firebrand” speakers for the southern cause.
The old cliche applies here “A legend in his own time,” as Robert Toombs was a successful planter and lawyer who led a turbulent career as a state legislator, U.S. Congressman and Senator. “Defend yourselves; the enemy is at your door…!” thundered Toombs from the Senate floor on January 24, 1860. His last service to Georgia citizens was helping create the Constitution of 1877, which was not amended until 1945. Visitors are welcome to tour the house and grounds, and view extensive exhibits and displays.
The Callaway Plantation
It’s easy to spend quite a bit of time here at Callaway Plantation, a historic restoration project, offers a glimpse into 200 years of Wilkes County history as it tells the story of one family’s legacy.
Callaway Plantation humbly began with a log cabin in 1785 built by Job Callaway and grew to a 3,000 acre working plantation complete with a brick mansion by the 1860’s. The property has been passed down through the Callaway Family and in the 1980’s was given as a gift by the Family to the City of Washington.
Special highlights at Callaway include:The Brick House – This brick Greek Revival style mansion was built with Georgia red clay. The Callaway family lived in the Brick House between 1869-1910. The house has never been modernized so it contains no indoor plumbing or electricity and it is decorated to reflect the grandeur of time period. Many antiques within the brick house are original to the house.
Tour the Log Cabin, the Grey House, the School House, the Dally Cabin, and the General Store.
Callaway Plantation is open from 10am – 5pm. Guided tours are available at 10am, 12pm, 2pm, and 3:30pm. Picnic area and RV Campsites are available on-site. Tel. 706-678-7060
If you like architecture or just plain pretty houses and the real old south like the historic areas in Beaufort and Savannah, then Washington has them in droves. Just about every type of residential and some commercial properties are typified. From Colonial, Italianate, Greek Revival, Queen Anne to Empire and beyond. So start by walking the square at the city center and then drive around town, especially through the historic district.
A must for visitors is a visit to the Hot Box for a delicious casual meal. A super chef,Tommy Davis, creates outstanding plates from soups to salads, shrimp to chicken and pork to beef as well as whatever spirit moves him! It’s the Ultimate food truck fantasy! (with outdoor seating) Save room for gorgeous desserts!
It’s Fievet Pharmacy and Soda Shoppe for all your headache needs BUT that’s just the come on to their ice cream and soda shop set inside of the pharmacy.
The Square Cafe offers a wide variety of sweet and savory treats for breakfast and lunch options, great coffee and a warm, friendly staff.
What a pleasure it is to go into the charming Connely Art Gallery on the square and meet owner Laura Connely. The gallery has a great variety of mediums and Laura may even have a sip and paint party in the works!
Bee Southern is an eclectic treat for the senses as the store offers a wide attraction of gifts, clothes, household and personal goods. It’s one of those shopping experiences that smells so good!
Tena’s Jewelry is a family owned business since 1969. The Howard family and staff give great charm to this shop and its outstanding inventory of jewelry and gift items. You’ll hear not only valuable points on jewelry but more of the history and culture of Washington.
The Square and surrounding blocks feature other shops and restaurants for your perusal.
The farmers market behind the courthouse on the village square is open year round every Saturday morning.
Though small, local farmers and artisans give a great variety to the open-air market. I purchased some wonderful hand painted cards by a local artist and also a small wooden bench by another local family.
There are Inns, B&B’s and nearby some of the standard chain hotels but the treat in keeping with the town’s historical flavor is the restored Fitzpatrick Hotel facing the town square. The Fitzpatrick Hotel features 17 finely appointed guest rooms (with private baths) that allow guests to experience luxurious accommodations reminiscent of another era, while providing all the modern amenities. We stayed in a corner room overlooking the square and it was charming. Everything right at your fingertips!
Washington is just a jewel if you are looking for a weekend getaway while experiencing a truly beautiful and authentic southern town.
For more on Washington,Georgia please see the following sites:
The Chambers tourism office is on the Square and you can also call to chat about finding your favorite things to do.
(706) 678 2013
Washington-Wilkes Chamber of Commerce
26 West Square, Washington, GA 30673
Phone 706. 678.2013
More architecture in Washington Georgia!
Wonderful history lesson, here. Thank you. Ellie Merritt
Wonderful history lesson, here. Thank you. Ellie Merritt
That is not a picture of the Robert Toombs house. The Robert Toombs house (museum) is a large greek revival with doric columns in front. Google it for images.
Thanks for the heads up! I’ll have this fixed in the next few days. Washington GA is a wonderful place to visit!