Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

November 30, 2012

TRAVEL: Arts, design excel in small Georgia community

By Christine Tibbetts
CNHI

— — Guess who’ll cook your lunch on a jaunt to LaGrange, Ga.? The great-great grandson of the legendary town philanthropist, that’s who.

It happens at a stylish downtown Main Street restaurant named C’sons which is pronounced “seasons.”

Charles is the name of the father and Chase the son, hence the letter C. Plus the exquisite menu is seasonal, changing daily with what’s fresh.

Here’s why I found that significant. LaGrange has much more going on than most towns of 30,000 —art and history museums, fine culinary, handsome downtown facades and urban treescapes. Storytelling and art festivals.

Symphony, ballet and theater, with audiences to fill them.

Gardens and historic homes too, plus ancient artifacts in an antiquity center.

The patriarch and matriarch of the family, Fuller E. and Ida Cason Callaway set the tone, perhaps as early as 1895, and their notion of sharing abounds to this day.

Linger in LaGrange if you’re curious about the sweeping touch a foundation can exert on a community. Certainly creates excellent opportunities for travelers.

Textile mills were the family business, living on through philanthropy.

Spend the day in their home and gardens. Hills and Dales Estate they named it, and 35 acres today are in the Fuller E. Callaway Foundation.

Protected, preserved, beautifully maintained and filled with original family furnishings.

That means something since the Italian villa has 30 rooms. Enormous but not pretentious. Docents guide the tours but no barriers stop visitors from walking within the rooms.

Hills and Dales Estate filled me with a sense of belonging, not gawking as is often the case with grand homes.

Stroll among the boxwoods, trees and flowers. Continuously cultivated for 180 years these garden paths.

With 23 garden highlights noted on the tour brochure, you allow time to breathe the fragrances and to muse awhile.

Such is the allure of storytelling at Hills and Dales and throughout LaGrange.

These Callaways emphasized design in their textiles and their community, says Karen Anne Briggs, executive director of the LaGrange Art Museum, influencing art today.

“Textiles require design,” she said, “ and the mills sent people to Europe to study fine design.

“This community has a disproportionately large population of people interested in art, in design, in creative expression,” Briggs said.

Through Jan.19, 2013, see American Folk Hero: Outsider Art of Georgia and Alabama. These 300 works are shared by a dozen LaGrange collectors.

Whimsical, thoughtful, colorful and personal -- the expressions of 40 people drawing and painting, carving and shaping within 200 miles of LaGrange.

Musing yet about the legacy of Callaway textile mills fine-design studies in Europe?

If specific events add reason for visiting interesting communities, here are two LaGrange times to consider:

Feb. 7 – 17, 2013 when For Love of the Arts showcases visual art, symphony, theater, lectures and more.

March 1 – 3, 2013 for the Azalea Storytelling Festival.

“Listening to stories brings back our own memories and reflections,” says Joyce Morgan Young, one of founders. “People love to say, ‘Let me tell you my story.’”

The festival provides transportation to Bellevue, an 1850 Greek revival home with a story of its own about the Nancy Harts. Know about them? I didn’t until I visited here.

All-female militia formed in LaGrange, credited with preventing Federal soldiers from destroying grand homes in the town when they marched through April 16, 1865.

Forty women drilling twice weekly with Capt. Nancy Morgan halted the forces. Businesses burned, homes saved and the militia women served dinner.

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Christine Tibbetts covers travel destinations for The Tifton, Ga., Gazette. Follow her work at www.TibbettsTravel.com

 

When you go:

www.lagrangechamber.com

706-884-8671

www.hillsanddalesestate.org

706-882-3242

www.lagrangeartmuseum.org

706-882-3267