Thought some of you might be interested . . . if not, my apologies.
This past weekend, my wife and I found ourselves in Tifton, Georgia.
I don’t mean to bore you all with family history, but I thought I might explain why we were there this past weekend. Basically, my mother and her siblings grew up there. My grandmother grew up a sharecropper in the 1920’s and 1930’s in the Appalachian foothills of South Carolina. After she met my grandfather at a church revival meeting, and he returned from his World War II service in Italy, from what I remember they lived in the foothills of South Carolina before moving to Plains, Georgia and becoming acquainted with the future president Jimmy Carter and his family (he was my mother’s Sunday school teacher and their family lived in a duplex where the Carter’s were the previous inhabitants). My grandfather was a civil (agricultural) engineer, and after getting a job with the USDA in Tifton Georgia, he moved his family there in the early 1960’s. My grandmother taught home economics and special education in the schools there, and they built a wonderful life and a wonderful family in Tifton.
In a nutshell, Tifton, the self proclaimed reading capitol of the world, is a gem of a small southern town. Located in southern Georgia, it is south of Macon and still on the coastal plains of the southeast U.S. Tifton became an agricultural center in southern Georgia, and like many small towns in the U.S., experienced a post-war boom. It has a quaint downtown area, complete with the county court house, city hall, and a movie theater (pictured below)—think My Cousin Vinny. Surrounding the down town area are lovely neighborhoods of classic southern victorians, bungalows, and prairie style homes. The streets are lined with many giant oaks and mature pines. But I know this isn’t what interests most readers here. With the post-war boom and the automobile came the red-brick ranch “suburbs.”
My grandparents lived in a classic/traditional red brick ranch outside of the downtown core. Having visited many times growing up, I remembered seeing many other red brick ranches and similar homes. Before our trip this past weekend, I had this odd feeling that I would find some mid-century loveliness there. We didn’t have much time to explore, but my wife and I spent about 3 hours over two days driving around this small town, and I forced her to take pictures of all the mid-century and mid-century modern residences and commercial buildings that I saw.
First, we were driving towards the downtown area, and I saw a neighborhood across the street from the middle school (it was a high school when my mother attended) and turned the car down the, relatively, densely forested streets. I saw red brick ranches with pierced brick car ports and suspected I would find something interesting. Here are some pics of the ranch style homes across town (though some of these are clearly not in original condition):
I persevered through several blocks and found some mid-century swank. My mother lived in this neighborhood in a more traditional ranch (with my grandparents and her siblings) in the early 60’s, so my guess is that these houses were built in the mid to late 60’s. Maybe in the late 70’s if the Brady-bunch double doors are any indication.
It's hard to see, but this house has really cool clerestory windows.
Check out the escutcheon and position of the door knob, and the accompanying reeded glass panel.
I’m sure there was more to be found, but my wife was getting tired of my creeping through the neighborhood in our rental car and ordering her out of the car to take pictures on every block. To downtown Tifton we went.
Just before that we saw a really neat motel that was unfortunately in sad shape. My guess is that with the recent expansion of Tifton towards I-75 (there’s a starbucks and a number of hotel chains there now) this hotel doesn’t have long before it is demolished.
The downtown area is certainly primarily prewar, but some of the store fronts had a mid-century vibe.
I particularly like the “flooring” at this storefront. My grandparents had it on their front porch before they added onto their house. If we had a red-brick home, I think it would be perfect for a patio, but my tastes are probably much more "retro" than most here.
For comparison here are some pictures of some other buildings downtown. Some art deco style, some plantation style, and some, I think, federal style influences as well.
The next day we embarked again towards the other side of downtown. I saw another red-brick ranch neighborhood, and, bingo, some more lovely mid-century ranches. I think this is my favorite house that I saw.
We continued toward the downtown area, where my uncle had told me I would find a pretty cool motel. I think we found it.
Next time we’re in Tifton, we are staying in this hotel.
We made a loop past the ranch neighborhoods we had driven through the day before in an effort to find a bit more mid-century swank. Success. Notice the front doors (crestview doors would be jealous).
Finally, we drove by some commercial buildings that I noticed had a somewhat distinct mid-century style. The first is, I believe, Tifton’s telephone exchange, and the second is/was an ice company.
Well, I hope I haven’t bored you too much and that some of you traveling types found this interesting. If you ever fly into Atlanta to drive down to the beaches of the gulf coast (which were the best beaches in the nation before the BP spill), stop and give Tifton a visit. Maybe if enough people take interest, we will help to ensure that these houses and buildings will be around for at least a little longer for others to enjoy.