Well, I must say I am totally *overjoyed* to finally be launching this new series, Small Town Squares. If you've followed me for any amount of time, I used to do a #smalltownsquares hashtag over on Twitter and Instagram from time to time and people were really into it. For obvious reasons, at least in my mind.
The South, where I am, is literally bursting at the seams with tiny town squares - some bustling, others complete desolate. The old signage, gorgeous architectural details and buildings, historic homes, statues and community markers all tell a rich story full of history and spread across generations. I love road trips and always beg Shane to stop and let me out to explore, town after town after town, but he knows otherwise if there's an antique store within the vicinity ...
To kick off the series, which I'm hoping will soon be way more than just a few words + pictures, we are starting with one of my favorite towns - Monticello, Georgia.
Like many town squares across the South, this one is no different in its prominent statue at the very center of town, flanked by greenspace that boasts a little farmers market on the weekend and a festival from time to town, like the Deer Festival. Which, much to my oldest sons dismay, we've never actually made it to.
You see, Monticello is where my husband's family farm is so it's a special place to us. We lived at the farm for 9 months while we were building our home and I ran my business remotely from there. Being in the middle of the country, I had to drive in every day to receive my packages from the post office and to delivery our outbound packages to the UPS and FedEx stores, which were several towns away. Needless to say, I became very familiar with the charm and detail of the town, including the interior of the old post office.
With a welcome sign like this, you don't need to travel too far into the actual town square to know it's going to be amazing. Home of (the wonderful) country music singer Trisha Yearwood, you can certainly tell the town has had its share of ups and downs over the years. Her song "Jasper County Line" is just one of the nods to her upbringing here in, you guessed it, Jasper County, Georgia.
One thing I love about the streets surrounding a true small town square is that you can literally see how the town evolved around the bustling little square. Spawning out from the square you can almost always find a few streets with some old, historic homes from the original settlement of the town.
The grande, historic old homes here are just to. die. for. Am I right? I mean, I could literally just stop here with the pictures and I must say this one home is probably my favorite in all the town. But there are quite a few more we could have captured, standing after so many years in all their glory. Some in need of repairs, others that have been nicely restored.
The details in the architecture are just amazing , and here especially there are a quite a variety of styles, each of quintessential Southern design but each so unique and gorgeous.
The upper ceilings of the porches are painted that signature "porch blue" to keep bugs at bay here in the South, and the paint is chipping off wooden staircases and columns more times than naught. The gardens surrounding the home are well established, with overgrown bushes and trees from years of landscaping growth.
And yet when you get into the outskirts of town, like where the farm is, you find the breathtaking pastures filled with cows, pecan trees and rolls of hay that only the country can provide. It's a beautiful balance to me.
The town square here in Monticello is certainly not one that I'd describe as bustling in it's current state. There are quite a few vacant buildings, and like most small squares, the City Hall is most certainly the grandest of them all, one that seems to be filled with fireplaces if judged by the number of chimneys seen from the outside.
The Monticello Government Complex building, which was originally owned entirely by the Benton family, has a rich history that I gathered from my research here. The Benton's had many roots here in the town and you can see their effect on their business here still today from the hand-laid floor mosaics at the front of the building and hand-painted signage in the still-original glass front window displays.
There are a variety of smaller shops that take up the buildings along the square. A thrift store has recently closed, a few restaurants, a drug store and an adorable children's shop that is almost displaced here among the vacancies. I often wonder what would happen if you popped in a quaint deli, general store, barber shop and gift store and just let it go and give it the chance to flourish, if little towns like this could support it if given the chance.
There was once a fabulous restaurant in town called the Tillman House that served the best fried chicken around. It has since closed and the Monticello Newspaper has moved into their old space inside of a building that was clearly once someones home. Their original newspaper building stands just next door, a tiny building with large vertical windows that is so charming to me. And an old car dealership or service station just across the street from that, it too is vacant but the shell and interior details are rich.
One of my best discoveries while wandering off the beaten path in Monticello one day in route to the Post Office (again) was the discovery of this huge, vacant church from 1895 that stands just on the outskirts of the square. The original Monticello United Methodist Church, which was replaced by a new building to accommodate a growing congregation, now stands vacant in all its glory.
With towering heights and beautiful stained glass windows, to say it's a shame for this holy building to remain empty and unused is quite the understatement. An old cemetery surrounds the property on two sides with tombstones that have recently been cleaned, repaired or replaced by pristine white markers. You know I'd much rather the old stained and mossy varieties but I'd love to know the story behind this complete renovation.
I hope you've enjoyed exploring a tiny glimpse into this town with me, as much as I've enjoyed sharing it. I'd love your thoughts on some other towns that might be good to explore and celebrate as part of this on-going series. And as I mentioned before, be sure to stay tuned as my passion for these tiny towns continues to grow and evolve into what I hope will be a beautiful project. #HEIRLOOMED
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