Distance: 50 miles, one-hour drive
In July of 1864, General William Tecumseh Sherman and his invading Yankee army reduced 3,600 Atlanta homes to rubble, and even had the audacity to take up residence in Atlanta for two more months after. He mercilessly set fire to plantations throughout the state and destroyed the railroad system on his March to Savannah, save for one place.
Whether charmed by the city’s cultured aristocracy, or the beneficiary of friendly persuasion and shrewd politicking from friends in high places, the town of Madison, Georgia escaped unscathed. Named by Southern Living as One of the South’s Best Small Towns, Madison remains an authentic southern town of more than 100 antebellum homes and buildings that make up one of the south’s largest listings on the National Register of Historic Places. But unlike other historical towns, Madison makes little effort to capitalize commercially on its antiquity. With a population of just 3,500, Madison remains small and quiet, mostly undisturbed by tourists – making it the perfect day trip from Gwinnett County.
One hour east of Atlanta, Madison is brimming with tree-shaded streets, nineteenth century architecture, brick sidewalks and a town square reminiscent of a bygone era. Start your day with a visit to the city Welcome Center, housed in the 1887 firehouse, where staff can assist with downloading a free audio walking tour app that will guide you through the streets and back in time.
Built in 1809, the Rogers House is Madison’s oldest home and is open daily for tours. The house pre-dates the Morgan County Courthouse by almost 100 years. Painstakingly restored using photographs and records from the city archives, the home looks as it probably appeared in 1873. Also open for tours is Rose Cottage, a charming little house that is a of a labor of love, built by a woman born into slavery. Adeline Rose, who earned her living by taking in washing and ironing at 50 cents a load, built the cottage in 1891. Most of her early work was done for the boarders of the Hardy House, which was owned by the mother of comedian Oliver Hardy (of Laurel and Hardy fame).
Hailing an insane 160+ dealers, an antiques aficionado could certainly spend more than an afternoon browsing the streets of Madison. Don’t miss Madison Markets Antiques: a 20,000-square-foot renovated cotton warehouse that houses some 75 dealers offering one-of-a-kind architectural pieces, rugs and a variety of upscale American and European antiques. The Market is located next to historic cemeteries, and just a few feet from the spring that was once the center of the original settlement.
After dinner at one of the many local restaurants, finish your evening with coffee, dessert and live music at Perk Avenue. Boasting their own special blends by a local roaster from beans that were green no more than seven days prior, Perk Avenue takes pride in brewing the perfect cup, every time. Try their Cinn & Tell Latte, with cinnamon, hazelnut, Nutella and steamed milk mixed with an espresso shot. Worried about the espresso keeping you up all night? Not a problem – Perk Avenue lists their Friday hours as 7 am until ?? and Saturday hours as 8 am until ??. Top off your coffee with a homemade dessert, then kick back and enjoy the live music and true southern hospitality of Madison.