While driving back to Fitzgerald the other day, I forgot something and had to turn around. The point at which I turned off the highway brought this into view. I was amazed.
Category Archives: –CRISP COUNTY GA–
This marble-front commercial block is one of the nicest historic retail buildings remaining in downtown Cordele. Its condition is probably not good, but hopefully, it can be saved. Watt and Holmes was one of the most successful businesses in early-20th-century Cordele. It was last home to an Allied Department Store.
Cordele Commercial Historic District, National Register of Historic Places
At just 20 miles in length and a mile wide at its widest, Lake Blackshear is one of Georgia’s smallest man-made reservoirs. It’s essentially a wide spot on the Flint River but it’s among the most popular outdoor recreation areas in South Georgia. To my knowledge, it’s also the oldest major man-made lake in Georgia, created with the damming of the Flint River between 1925-1930.
Pleasure boating and water skiing are extremely popular, as is fishing. There’s a busy put-in at Lakeshore Marine on the Sumter County side. Besides a ski shop, marina, campground, and event space, there’s the Lakeshore Grill which sells food, tackle, coolers, beer, gas and other essentials. Georgia Veterans State Park is a mile or so from here and is the primary location for public access to the lake. If you’re in the area, stop at Stripling’s for some of the best sausage around.
Gean Nipper recently suggested I make some photographs at Coney. Having driven between Cordele and Americus countless times over the years, I must admit I had never even heard of the place. A couple of old warehouses and commissaries were still standing in the crossroads community near Lake Blackshear until they were destroyed by a tornado a few years ago. This store, the lone survivor, was owned by Mr. Nipper’s grandparents, Lonnie and Dicy Calhoun. It was closed by the late 1960s and briefly reopened in the early 1970s.
Coney was once a busy rail siding and was also the location of a ferry that crossed the nearby Flint River (long before Lake Blackshear was formed).
The origins of this important landmark of African-American educational history in South Georgia can be traced to Dr. Augustus S. Clark and the St. Paul Presbyterian Church. The first facilities of the school were three wood-framed buildings, built through a gift of the Gillespie family of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1903, and named the Gillespie Normal School in their honor. The first two structures pictured here were built when it was still known as the Gillespie Normal School.
In 1933, the school merged with the Selden Institute in Brunswick and the name was changed to the Gillespie-Selden Institute. Over the years, students came from as far away as New York and New Jersey. The Institute closed in 1956 due to citywide consolidation.
A hospital was built in 1923 and named for its benefactor, Charles Helms. It was a vital part of the institute. (It is still standing but not pictured here; I will add a photograph later). At the time, the nearest hospital for blacks was in Atlanta. Selden Cottage, pictured below, was a school for nurses, associated with the hospital.
This neighborhood, and particularly the remaining facilities of the Institute, represent a significant resource of a progressive African-American community in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Preliminary efforts to document and preserve the site have been made, but I’m unsure as to their present status.
Gillespie-Selden Historic District, National Register of Historic Places