Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Capitol Reunion in Milledgeville Lawmakers Visit 1860s Site

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Capitol Reunion in Milledgeville Lawmakers Visit 1860s Site

Article excerpt

MILLEDGEVILLE -- By most accounts, the 1861 vote to secede from the Union was the most noteworthy event to happen at the old Georgia Capitol in Milledgeville.

There is no chance of a similar history-making vote when the General Assembly meets in the renovated building today for a rare session away from Atlanta. The lawmakers aren't scheduled to do anything more than listen to a speech by Gov. Roy Barnes and attend a reception.

But the session will be significant in that it commemorates 250 years of representative government in Georgia. The first assembly of elected representatives in Georgia took place Jan. 15, 1751, in Savannah, when 16 representatives met to deal with grievances affecting the fledgling colony.

The statehouse in Milledgeville, now a part of the Georgia Military College campus, has been renovated in a $10 million project. It served as the seat of Georgia's government for 61 years in the 1800s.

The last time the legislature convened at the old Capitol was in 1866, a year after the end of the Civil War. The building, vandalized by Union troops under Gen. William T. Sherman, had plaster falling off its exterior walls. Public documents were rotting downstairs because the basement was so damp.

Legislators authorized the governor to make repairs, assuming they would return to Georgia's antebellum capital for their next session. They never did.

Their next meeting in 1868 -- and every one thereafter -- was in Atlanta.

The earliest Capitol in Milledgeville may have looked considerably different from the building that stands today. In 1831, the first of three major fires damaged the structure. Each time, it was rebuilt.

"Except in the very foundation, nothing remains of the original 1805, 1806, 1807 fabric of the building," said Bob Wilson, a history professor at Georgia College & State University in Milledgeville.

Betty Snyder, who heads Georgia's Antebellum Capitol Society, said she doesn't think that original design lasted long.

She said it gave way to a Gothic-revival structure with crenelated towers like a medieval castle, making it one of the first public buildings in the nation designed that way. …

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