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Ghosts of Grandeur

A new book is the first to document Georgia’s lost antebellum homes and plantations.

Dedicated to those who preserve historic structures, a new book by Valdosta, Georgia, native Michael W. Kitchens attempts to resurrect some of the images and stories of the South’s lost architectural gems. Containing over 200 images, many of them being published for the first time, “Ghosts of Grandeur: Georgia’s Lost Antebellum Homes and Plantations” is both a beautiful coffee table book and extensive tome for any history buff. (See our Giveaways section to enter to win this book today!)

In his preface, Kitchens talks about photographing an abandoned plantation house in the Mississippi Delta called Everhope. “Just a few weeks after our visit, the 150-year-old home was lost, leaving nothing more than a ghostly shell of exterior walls,” he writes. Everhope had burned to the ground, and that’s when Kitchens realized that even though there are still antebellum homes standing in the South, they are quickly being lost. He began gathering photographs and information on homes that are now gone, and this book is a culmination of his 20 years of research.

Many of the 94 dwellings in the book were home to some of Georgia’s most important citizens and their many regionally and nationally prominent guests. Other homes are a tribute to the skill of the women and men who helped to build and maintain them. Whether destroyed by fire, storm or neglect, these homes are all now lost. Kitchens says the most devastating losses are those resulting from demolition, especially when just to make way for a parking lot. “With each burned or fallen house comes the irretrievable loss of more of the state’s historic fabric,” he writes.

Homes throughout the book are organized by region, beginning with Savannah and the Coast. The first chapter opens with this quote by Eudora Welty:

“A place that ever was lived in is like fire that never goes out. It flares up, it smolders for a time, it is fanned or smothered by circumstances, but its being is intact, forever fluttering within it, the result of some original ignition. Sometimes it gives out glory, sometimes its little light must be sought out to be seen, small and tender as a candle, but as certain.”

What follows are pictures of elegant, curving staircases, a home that once boasted a wine cellar on its roof, one of Macon’s most palatial residences, a Columbus home that welcomed a former U.S. president and plenty of white columned mansions and front porticos. Calling to mind last year’s “Gone” by Nell Dickerson and the late Shelby Foote, which documented the architectural heritage devastated by the Civil War, “Ghosts of Grandeur” captures an era of the South’s past and the fascinating stories that go with it.

Ghosts of Grandeur: Georgia’s Lost Antebellum Homes and Plantations” is included in the Deep South Gift Guide this year. Get it on Amazon, at the Atlanta History Center, T.R.R. Cobb House Museum in Athens or click here for more locations. To enter to win a copy today only, visit our Giveaways section.

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Words of Wisdom from
  • Kirsten Mazur / December 18, 2012

    I worked for Mike for several years and I was always impressed with his attention to detail and ability to take beautiful photographs. I look forward to seeing his dedication to preserving history through photographs come to fruition through this book.

  • Hope / December 22, 2012

    I have this book, and it is addicting. I keep going to it to read about the long lost homes and family stories. Beautiful descriptions break your heart for what has been lost! I wish we built houses like this now.

  • robin s. lattimore / December 25, 2012

    I received Ghosts of Grandeur as a gift on Christmas morning. I spent most of the morning and early afternoon engrossed in its engaging text and luminous photographs. It will take days, weeks, etc. to fully absorb this wonderful tome. While it is sad to know that thousands of the South’s plantations have been lost to time, decay, fire & war, it is so encouraging to see the fine work that this historian has done to preserve and promote the heritage and history of the South. This book is a treasure from cover to cover. A copy should belong to every family who loves the South and its storied past.