Americus, Georgia, is best known today as the headquarters of Habit for Humanity, a wonderful organization that makes home ownership a reality for people who never dreamed it was possible, through the cooperative work of the future home owners with community volunteers.  Founded in 1976 by businessman Millard Fuller and his wife Linda, the organization is now represented  by affiliates around the world.  The Global Village & Discovery Center of Habitat for Humanity, in Americus, welcomes visitors who want to learn more about Habitat for Humanity.  It not only tells the history of this global homebuilding network, it also shares with the visitor the challenges of poverty and how it can be addressed.

The Global Village & Discovery Center of Habitat is just one of a number of wonderfully restored buildings on the main streets of Americus which from the 1850s onward was a key railroad city, known as the “Metropolis of Southwest Georgia”.  The commercial blocks are in a downtown historic district and provide the visitor with an architectural potpourri of delights, everything from pre-Civil War to High Victorian.  You will spy “ghosts signs” on the sides of buildings, adverting products still available a century after the signs were made.  Many of these buildings are home to restaurants and shops that will draw you inside, including—yes—antique shops.  We particularly like The Maze Inc., on East Forsythe Street, with its whimsical window displays and tempting finds.

Dining in Historic Americus, GA

The Windsor Hotel

Americus is a small city of about 17,000, big on history and charm.  In the 1890s the place to stay was the Windsor Hotel., built in 1892 to attract winter visitors from the northeast.  It continues to charm visitors today as the grande dame of hostelries in the area.  Architect Godfrey Leonard Norrman designed this tour de force in brick, with turrets, towers, cupolas, chimneys, balconies and steep roofs.  Norman also designed the beloved “Wren’s Nest” in Atlanta.  The Rosemary & Thyme Restaurant at The Windsor is a destination for fine dining; the elegant décor is much like the dining room at the Jekyll Island Club.  Try the prime rib, fried green tomatoes, chicken marsala, and crab cakes; you can ogle the interior’s three-story atrium as well.  Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Jimmy Carter have been Windsor guests.

There are a number of other good choices for eating in Americus, including The Little Brother Bistro, said to offer the best lunch in town; try the southwestern omelet with fruit salsa or raider club with broccoli coleslaw.  The Station offers shrimp and cheese grits and other southern specialties, as well as stake.  At the 1800 Mexican Restaurant  you can get great Mexican food with a local twist such as the Downtown Americus and the Alhambra.  The locals know it’s 2 Dukes BBQ for ribs, potato salad and grilled pineapple; and friendly and unassuming Pat’s Place for pizza and for oysters in season.  Richelle’s in the Windsor is the place for cupcakes and baked goodies.  If pecan pie is on the menu where you choose to dine, save room for this Georgia specialty.

Sightseeing in Americus, GA

Here and there throughout Americus are the kinds of antebellum southern mansions you wish you lived in, you can almost picture Scarlett and Rhet and Melanie and Ashley on the front porches beneath the magnolia trees.  You may not live here, but you can at least stay in some of them as B&B lodging.  We stayed in one such white-columned home and found the accommodations to be delightful.

Rylander Theater Sign at NightYou might want to take in a performance at the historic Rylander Theatre – built in 1921.  Americus is home to many lovely church buildings as well.  We happened upon Calvary Episcopal Church, and were taken at once by its architecture.  We strolled the lovely grounds and photographed the church, and learned only later that Jimmy Lawrence, the rector who served the church had been a Princeton roommate to the man who became one of America’s greatest church architects, Ralph Adams Cram.  When the church in Americus was in need of a new building, the priest asked his old roommate if he would design it and the result is an architectural treasure in English style red brick, that graces Americus down to this day.  Many native Americonians don’t know this story.

This part of Georgia is red clay country, as you will note on your drive out of Americas on GA 49.  Head first toward Souther Field.  Charles Lindbergh flew his first solo flight at Souther Field and it is still there on the road to Andersonville.  Lindbergh bought his first airplane there, a surplus
World War I plane.  You can see the statue of Lindberg commemorating his connection to the city.  Americus is proud of its link to Lucky Lindy, so you will find other reminders of his visit around town.

Continue northeast of town on 49, to include Andersonville Cemetery and Prisoner of War Museum on your itinerary.  More than 45,000 Union Army troops were confined here and  13,000 died in captivity.  The National Historic Site honors not only them and this grim chapter in our nation’s history, but also honors all prisoners of war.  In 2014 and 2015, Andersonville is marking its 150th anniversary with special events scheduled throughout the two-year remembrance.  Be sure to check their website.  Andersonville is the home of The Little Drummer Boy Museum, where you can see Lincoln assassination plotter Mary Seurat’s hanging-day bonnet amid other Civil War memorabilia.  Before heading back toward Americus, go the extra few miles north for homemade peach ice cream at Farmer Brown’s Roadside Farm Market located at 4334 Highway 49 North in Montezuma. They also feature fruits, vegetables, and “pick your own” flowers.

Explore Nearby Plains, GA

Jimmy Carter Teaches Sunday School

West of Americus, along GA 27, US 280, is Plains, the hometown of our 39th President, Jimmy Carter and First Lady Rosalyn Carter.  They are gracious folks and when they are in town, the President teaches his Sunday school class at the Maranatha Baptist Church.  You can go and hear his lesson; if you do and if you stay for worship, the Carters will be glad to have their photo taken with you, with your camera.  The Carters are in demand all over the globe, so they are not always there.  No other former President has ever done this, so it is worth planning your travels around their schedule, posted on the church website.

Smiling Plains PeanutThe entire town of Plains (pop. just over 600) comprises the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site, where  you can see many aspects of the Carters’ lives, including Plains High School where both President and Mrs. Carter attended, the Depot Museum site of President Carter’s presidential candidacy announcement, and the Carter Boyhood Home.  This is peanut country, so stop and buy some of Jean and Bobby Salter’s “Plain Peanuts” while visiting Plains at the old Carter Warehouse.

For a complete change of pace, stop and see one of the more unique folk art centers in the nation at Pasaquan, in Buena Vista, with its wonderfully weird and wacky sculptures. It was created by the late Eddie Owens Martin, also known as St Eom, between the mid-1950s and his death in 1986. He had a vision that started the whole adventure, and the result is a landscape of very intriguing walls, buildings and sculptures that hint of Africa or the Caribbean or some unknown world, all at once.  One of  those you have to see it to believe it wonders, it is hard to find and only open the first Saturday of the month in the summer, so if you want to go, plan accordingly.

A visit to Americus and nearby will have you humming “Georgia on My Mind” with a smile.  Here’s to you and miles of smiles while you Drive the Nation.


Image credits: Ryland, Carter, Plains