Printed in the April 21, 2011 edition
By Ramsey Nix Photograph by Ian Ference
From a distance, the dome atop the historic Powell Building is a beacon. It towers over a leafy green campus so quiet you can hear birds chirping. A closer inspection of the grounds at Central State Hospital, however, reveals a sad and disturbing picture. The fountain in front of the stately, white admissions building is dry, and the building itself, once the nerve center of the nation's largest mental health institution, is tarnished with black mildew. Many of the historic structures that dot the 1,750 acres of state-owned lush Georgia landscape are crumbling. They are largely boarded up and forbidden to visitors.
I don't know whether to call it irony, poetic justice, or fate, but Central State Hospital, an institution that once caged society's most neglected, is now a victim of societal neglect. Historic preservationists call it “benign neglect” and say that at this rate, the victims will be beyond repair in two to five years.
That gloomy prognosis explains why Central State landed on the Georgia Trust list of “Places in Peril” last year. That designation opened up a tenuous dialogue regarding the future of an institution that has been controversial since politicians chartered it in 1837. Its morbid history and state of decay begs the question, “Should Central State Hospital be saved?”
For many Georgians, Central State Hospital is a mysterious and frightening place. Located in the former state capital, Milledgeville became synonymous with “insane asylum” when the hospital's population vied with that of its hometown. By 1959, about 12,500 patients lived at the “Georgia State Sanitarium.”
Writer Ramsey Nix remembers the life of Morgan Countian Charlie Burney
portraits by angelina bellebuono
My career in journalism affords me the opportunity to meet some truly wonderful people and unforgettable characters. Some of them leave an impression that lingers long after our interview is over and the story published. Last spring, while documenting the historical legacy of the area where Town Park now stands, I first encountered one such character. He was losing his sight, but his eyes sparkled. He walked with a cane, but his handshake was firm. He possessed the confidence of a man who lived life to the fullest and was brimming with stories to tell.
Charlie Burney was one of the fellows who used to gather on the park benches at the corner of West Washington and North Second, where Town Park now stands. Once a bustling commercial thoroughfare, this corner historically served as an anchor of Madison’s African-American community. Burney could remember Franklin Pool Hall, Mr. Wilson Bass and Mr. Bugg’s barbershop, Fish Delite, Ethel Franklin’s sewing shop, and Corner Grill– all businesses that have long since closed.
Burney didn’t have long to talk that day we first met at the NAACP office, because he had to catch the Morgan County Transit back to his home in Rutledge. He gave me his phone number so that we could meet again, so that I could hear his stories. By the time I called him back, his daughter informed me that he had taken ill and had been moved to hospice care. She kindly scheduled a time for me and photographer Angelina Bellebuono to meet him at the hospice care center.
By Kathryn McBroom
Wait! Before you sell that old clarinet you’ve had since high school or throw away the stacks of sheet music your child left when they moved off to college, consider the some exciting news from one group of local citizens.
Morgan County Middle School principal Joe Hutcheson, along with several friends, is organizing an adult community band. With performances that will be exclusive to Madison only, Hutcheson had the idea after recognizing the large percentage of musicians that live in Morgan County. Called the Madison Winds, the band is meant to be a fun, low stress way for many of Madison’s part-time musicians to get together a few times a year.
After seeing Ann Huff, Madison’s Main Street Director, at Town Park’s Christmas Caroling event, he mentioned his idea. Madison Winds’ debut will take place on June 2nd, as the “grand finale” of Town Park’s spring concert series.
“This is not a long term commitment,” said Hutcheson.
“I don’t want any adult to see it and say, ‘oh, I can’t do that.’ All we’re doing is preparing for this one event and we’ll see how it goes after that.”
Without any advertising, the band has already acquired 50 members, including Morgan County High School band director Scott Ellis, and Morgan County School Superintendent Stan DeJarnett. Using MCMS’s band room as practice space as well as sheet music from the band programs at both MCMS and MCHS, the Madison Winds only needs sponsors to help out with the advertising for their June 2nd performance.
Even with 50 members, Madison Winds is still actively seeking new members, especially those who play “color instruments” like the oboe, bassoon, and bass clarinet.
By Kathryn Schiliro • Photos by Angelina Bellebuono
Morgan County NAACP celebrates the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.
It's all about promises. And faith.
The message delivered by Evangelist Denise Reid, speaker at the Morgan County Branch of the NAACP's Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. religious program Monday evening at Madison's Present Glory Baptist Church, drew parallels between Dr. King and the Biblical figure Moses.
"God's will for Martin Luther King and Moses was surrendering to His will," Reid said. "God allowed him (Dr. King) to go to the mountaintop. He saw the Promised Land."
Like Moses, Dr. King led his people to the Promised Land; in King's case, this journey was the Civil Rights Movement. Both the Israelites and African-American people endured suffering at the hands of their "Pharoahs." And like Moses, King didn't live to see his people finally come to the Promised Land.
But, according to Reid, God promised both Moses and King that they would lead their respective people to the Promised Land. And He kept that promise.
"He made that promise to Moses and He made that promise to Dr. Martin Luther King," Reid said. "Martin's struggles for us were God's plan for his work."
The morning's NAACP King-related event delivered a message of unity, according to Morgan NAACP President Laura Butler.
"Don't look at outer appearance, look at inner appearance," Butler said. "We are serving the same God."
In further addressing those present, Butler encouraged them to take part in local government meetings and civic activities.
"You need to go there and voice your opinion," Butler said. "At one time we couldn't go to those meetings and express our feelings."
A family leaves Atlanta's Buckhead for the real Buckhead and transforms their log, hunting cabin into a sophisticated retreat.
story by jamie miles | photos by justin evans
Sometimes you have to risk offending even the best of friends to make room for something significantly bigger and better in life. When Atlanta residents, Diane and Will Pharr decided to make the Morgan County countryside their permanent residence, one casualty of that decision became Will's beloved hunting cabin. “It made all my hunting buddies mad,” he confesses with a smile. “Now they don't have a place to come hang out.” Though Will's buddies lost their weekend hideaway, the traditional log cabin and surrounding forest evolved into a spectacular home site: a glorious new retreat for a wider audience of the Pharrs' family and friends.
The meandering drive to the residence cuts through tall Georgia pines and immaculately manicured horse pasture. About the time a visitor begins to wonder if a wrong turn was taken, a break in the trees reveals a large clearing and peaceful pond, which mirrors a spectacular house. Built of stone and wood, the structure blends seamlessly with the stunning landscape. The impressive home is both warm and inviting, much like its owners.