HISTORIC MADISON - A Truly Special Place
In 1845, a journal described Madison as, “the most cultured and aristocratic town on the stagecoach route from Charlestown to New Orleans.” Over 150 years later Madison boasts one of the finest historical districts in the nation and Travel-Holiday Magazine named Madison as “the #1 small town in America.”
Incorporated in 1809, Madison quickly became a thriving and elegant community. A turning point in the city’s development came in 1841, when the Georgia Railroad pushed east from Augusta along the old stagecoach route. Concerned citizens led by Adam Saffold, fought to preserve the town’s business district and residential areas. They deeded land to the railroad and arranged for the tracks to skirt the town.
Two decades later the Civil War erupted and in 1864, Madison lay directly in the path of one wing of General Sherman’s army. Madison attorney, former U.S. Senator and staunch Unionist, Joshua Hill was given clearance to travel through Federal lines and met General Sherman at his headquarters. An agreement was reached and Union forces spared Madison. For a second time Madison’s residential areas and city center escaped a crippling blow.
After the war Madison continued to prosper. During the 1880’s and 90’s many Victorian homes were built, enhancing the charm of a town already replete with fine ante-bellum structures. In 1895, the Madison Graded School was completed. The massive neo-Romanesque structure with its central bell tower was the south’s finest small town school building. In 1905, a new court house was erected and Madison looked forward to the new century.
During the 1920’s the boll weevil destroyed the county’s cotton industry, forcing many surrounding farmers out of business. A great number of Madison’s small businesses suffered accordingly and by the end of World War II, the city’s population had declined and its vibrant economy slowed down. For the next 30 years the town slept as one great house after another was vacated and fell into disrepair.
Madison’s Renaissance began in the 1970’s with renewed interest in conservation, restoration and preservation. As a result of citizen action, the 80 year old Graded School was saved from demolition and found new life as the Madison-Morgan Cultural Center. Many newcomers, along with native Madisonians purchased older homes and businesses and restored them to their former glory.
One of the finest examples of this type of stewardship is the Foster-Thomason-Miller home. When it was built in 1883, the local paper called Legare Foster’s house, “the most elegant country home in Middle Georgia.”
For more information about Morgan County’s historic communities, click here.