ALBANY — Chances are good you pass by historically significant sites on a daily basis without even knowing it, although many of the most significant sites in Georgia are clearly marked.
In the 1950s, the state of Georgia began marking these sites. Over the next 40 years, more than 2,000 sites would be recognized as historically significant and marked with a cast metal marker highlighting each site’s significance.
The original cast metal plaques bear the State Seal over gold text on a green background explaining the historical significance of the site where it is posted. The bottom of the plaque recognizes the agency or organization responsible for the marker’s placement and bears the date it was cast and dedicated.
A large number of these markers were placed across the state during the 1950s in the run-up to the centennial of the Civil War. Many of these early markers are now located in areas that have seen significant change over the decades. As a result, some may not at first glance be near anything of significance, others may be inaccessible or damaged through the ravages of time and neglect.
The initial marker program was managed by the Georgia Historical Commission and later by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. Since 1998, the Georgia Historical Society has managed the Georgia Historical Marker Program and have recognized 250 “new” sites with cast markers similar to the original but having silver text on a black background.
Today, in cooperation with DNR, the GHS is taking the lead in the maintenance and repair of the markers prior to 1998 as well as maintaining the ones they have placed around the state since then. They encourage Georgians to contact GHS to report any damaged or missing markers. They also encourage local communities to help them address issues related to accessibility, visibility and maintenance.
Currently GHS also oversees the process allowing an individual or organization to apply for a site to receive historic recognition. It is the policy of the GHS to encourage applications for new markers on a wide variety of topics in an effort to tell the full story of Georgia. A visit to the GHS site at https://georgiahistory.com and clicking on the Georgia Historical Markers link will allow you to do a wide variety of things related to the marker program. You can report damaged or missing markers on the site. You can volunteer and learn how to clean and maintain markers as well as find a listing of markers through a variety of searches.
Clicking on the Explore Georgia historical marker link allows a visitor to search for markers in a variety of ways, including by topic — such as Civil Rights or the Civil War — and get a statewide list relating to the topics of query. Visitors can also search marker locations by county or region, allowing them to create a customized route to view the markers that interest them on any road trip through the state. The link also provides a downloadable mobile app that allows users to search the Georgia Historical Marker database.
This app provides instant loading of the markers closet to your current location, as well as comprehensive data and photos related to each site. Visitors can also view a map showing the marker’s location and get directions to it from any current location. It also allows interested persons to email the marker to friends.
The following is an example of the information provided in the text of a local GHS marker:
St. Teresa’s Church was constructed in 1859-1860 on land given by Col. Nelson Tift, founder of Albany. It is the oldest church building in Albany and the oldest Catholic church in Georgia still in use. The bricks were handmade by laborers on the Barbour Plantation near Newton. Before the interior was completed, work was halted by the outbreak of the Civil War, and for a time the church was used as a hospital for wounded Confederate soldiers.
The church was completed after the war and, although used for Catholic worship services, it was not dedicated until 1882, on November 19 of that year. The Most Rev. William H. Gross, D.D. Bishop of Savannah, presided at the ceremony dedicating the church under the patronage of St. Teresa of Avila. The date chosen coincided with the fiftieth wedding anniversary of John Valentine and Elizabeth Schmidt Mock, pioneer settlers of the community.
The interior of the church was remodeled in 1902. The alter, pews and stained glass windows date from that time. Restoration of the church was completed in 1980.
St. Teresa’s Church is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and in 1980 was recognized for Outstanding Restoration by The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation.
The markers and the technology related to them allow viewers to turn a boring afternoon or a long ride into a glimpse of the past that shaped Georgia through the centuries.