Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites

Historic Jarrell Plantation
Yesterday’s southern plantations were usually a far cry from the image of Tara portrayed by Margaret Mitchell in Gone With The Wind. Elegant manor homes overlooking never ending cotton fields are largely things of fiction and Hollywood myths. Jarrell Plantation is perhaps one of the finest surviving examples of a typical “middle class" southern plantation.

Located just northeast of Macon in Juliette, Georgia, is the Jarrell Plantation State Historic Site. Originally 660 acres and built by John Fitz Jarrell in 1847, the cotton plantation grew to almost 1000 acres and survived Sherman, Reconstruction, the cotton boll weevil and a transition from farming to forestry. During the early part of the 20th century, John’s son Richard prospered as the farm diversified into a sprawling activity center with the addition of a sawmill, cotton gin, gristmill, shingle mill, planer, sugar cane press, and workshops. In 1974, Richard’s descendants formally donated the plantation site to the State of Georgia in order to ensure that the family homesite would be preserved and used to educate the public, especially school children, about their heritage.

The now 8 acre historic site still includes the two home places, from 1847 and 1895, and no fewer than 15 outbuildings. The Georgia DNR’s restoration of the site included the challenge of appropriately linking the sites many features for large, and sometimes confused, groups of visitors. The long held practice of simply allowing visitors to wander at will throughout the farm resulted in a badly worn site. An appropriate solution for the nearly 2,000 linear feet of interior trails and expansive areas of bare soil was sorely needed! A preliminary budget of $160,000 was established and the Georgia DNR contacted the Atlanta landscape architectural firm of Doran & Karwoski, Inc.

While coordinating the desired routing with the Georgia DNR, landscape architect Mary Karwoski also explored a variety of potential paving materials. Clearly, turf and loose surfacing wasn’t working, and would not stand up to further heavy visitor traffic. In the highest traffic areas the need for a permanent paved surface became fairly obvious. While more typically used managing stormwater and associated water quality issues, porous concrete paving was considered and ultimately chosen for the path system for both functional and aesthetic reasons. These considerations included: the cool surface, prevent further erosion by slowing & eliminating cross flows, provided a slip resistant surface, increased accessibility and provided a more natural and historic appearing surface than traditional concrete or asphalt. To further enhance the aesthetic appearance an earth tone coloring agent was specified to further blend the paths with natural surroundings. Plastic soil stabilization rings were installed below grade to reinforce and protect turf areas and prevent soil erosion at the home sites to help preserve the visitor’s experience to more of what would have similarly existed in the mid 19th century. While the porous concrete paving was initially more expensive than several alternatives considered, the porous concrete paving should provide substantial savings over the life of the material due to its permanent nature and reduced maintenance costs associated with repairing soil erosion.

Phase One (of three) was completed in the summer of 2002. Visitors now stroll casually from building to building along both porous concrete paths and areas of reinforced turf instead of bare earth and mud. The site has been transformed from looking tired and worn to a place where the buildings and history take center stage. The primary goal of the Georgia DNR was to both preserve and enhance the visitor experience of imagining what it must have been like 150 years ago here on this busy working plantation.

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