The Ashford Manor Bed & Breakfast located in the heart of Downtown Watkinsville.                              Photo by Matt Brewster.

On a summer afternoon, I sat in the main room of the Victorian-style Ashford Manor Bed & Breakfast with owners Dave and Mario. The owners took me on the journey of the inspirational stories behind three of their most-talked about rooms: the Asian Room, the Safari Room, and the Penthouse Suite. The décor in each room tells the stories of the owners’ personal experiences and styles– stories shared by guests after an intimate stay at the bed and breakfast.

The Asian Room

The Asian Room decorated in Japanese kimonos and collectibles found  in Asia.

Inspired by Dave’s two-year stay in Kyoto, Japan in the late 1980s, the Asian room is filled with items collected from the Toji Temple in Japan. Dave compares the Toji Temple to Athens, Georgia’s J & J Flea Market, except filled with traditional Japanese items that dates back 200 to 500 years. In the Asian room, guests are surrounded by traditional kimonos, a collection of Japanese dishware, a rare Netsuke collection, and other items collected from his and his family’s journeys in China, Korea, and Indonesia.

“Each of the rooms were unique and creatively decorated. We stayed in the Asian room and I spent a great deal of time just looking at the artifacts and interesting items arranged about the room.” –Unguidedmissal via TripAdvisor

Japanese dishware collected from the Toji Temple.

 

The Safari Room

The Safari Room filled with an eclectic collection of travels, mostly in Africa.

Dave and Mario describe the Safari room as an “eclectic mix of travel souvenirs,” mostly from travels in Egypt and Kenya. The room gives off an exterior vibe with mosquito netting and a tin ceiling, and actually is entered through the outside porch of the manor. Interestingly, the bathroom of the room was built using re-purposed wood and windows from the Ashford family’s picnic house, which was damaged  and unused when the current owners bought the home.

“Our room (the Safari Room) was fantastic! It was filled with all sorts of wonderful world travel details-even in the bathroom. The location was great, being situated on the main street of an old town area.” – Marion H. via TripAdvisor

The outside entrance of the Safari Room.

The Penthouse

The bedroom of the Penthouse Suite.

The Penthouse Suite, the owners say, is the collective aesthetics of the owners. The sitting room is described as “French Provincial” with pink drapes and floral arrangements. Guests then take the stairs to a cathedral-like, Gothic bathroom with two skylights revealing the peak of the bed and breakfast and the peak of the Ashford Church next door. The bedroom of the suite is architecturally unique being the highest point of the manor. Dave’s late brother, Jim—who worked at the late singer Prince’s Paisley Park— embraced his theatrical background to design the bedroom in hues of black, gray, and silver.

“I stayed in the Penthouse and felt like royalty! It has everything you could possibly need. The staff was so friendly and helpful and the breakfasts were phenomenal.” –Pam B. of Lantana, FL via TripAdvisor

The sitting room of the Penthouse Suite described as “French Provincial.”

The Gothic, cathedral-like bathroom of the Penthouse Suite.

 

Immerse yourself in the stories of these rooms and others by booking a stay at Ashford Manor Bed & Breakfast located in the heart of Downtown Watkinsville. The manor is walking distance from a dozen restaurants, art exhibitions and galleries, and specialty shops.

 

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The Elder Mill Covered Bridge is one of 13 functioning covered bridges left in Georgia.

Oconee County’s Elder Mill Covered Bridge is one of Georgia’s 13 covered bridges that carries traffic. The bridge is a popular attraction in Watkinsville, and is the only covered bridge featured along Georgia’s Antebellum Trail. Check out these four facts about the bridge, including some of the notable people who influenced the bridge.

1. The bridge once connected Watkinsville and Athens

Before its move to Elder Road off of Highway 15 in 1924, the Elder Mill Covered Bridge connected Watkinsville and Athens-Clarke County. The two neighboring cities share a long history, as Watkinsville initially served as the county seat of Clarke County before the founding of Oconee County in 1875. Watkinsville is only a stone’s throw from Athens, with Clarke and Oconee sharing the city of Bogart and some parts of Athens existing within the county lines of Oconee.

 

Once connecting Athens and Watkinsville above Calls Creek, the bridge now sits above Rose Creek.

2. Its structure is known as Town’s Lattice Truss

Most of America’s covered bridges were built between 1825 and 1875. The maker of the Elder Mill Covered Bridge, Nathaniel Richardson, built the bridge in 1897 using Town’s lattice truss form, which was patented by architect Ithiel Town in 1820 and 1835. The structure utilizes a large number of smaller planks for easy labor. The Elder Mill Covered Bridge is one of the few covered bridges in the state that carries traffic without the additional support of steel beams.

 

The bridge was built in 1897 by Nathaniel Richardson using Town’s lattice truss structure.

3. The bridge was saved with funds granted by former U.S. President and Georgia Governor, Jimmy Carter

In 1974, the bridge endured termite damage and was deemed unsafe for traffic. An Oconee resident who oversaw much of the upkeep and traffic of the bridge reached out to former President Jimmy Carter, Georgia’s governor at the time, and received $2,500 to repair the bridge. Three years later, President Carter began his presidential term, serving until 1981.

 

The Elder Mill Covered Bridge provided access to the Elder family’s mill in 1924.

4. It’s named after the family of David Elder, soldier in the Revolutionary War

David Elder, born in Brunswick County, Virginia, arrived in Oconee County after his military service during the Revolutionary War granted him land in Oconee County. Descendants of the family have lived in Oconee County for more than 200 years, long after his death in 1853. After the bridge’s move from Calls Creek, the bridge provided access to the family’s mill—Elder Mill (hence the name of the bridge and road the bridge sits on). David Elder’s memorial stone can also be found along Highway 15 in the Elder Cemetery, approximately 2 miles from the covered bridge.

 

 Sources: Athens Banner-Herald & Georgia House Resolution 224

 

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William Massey’s “Object of Wo(man)” along Main Street in Downtown Watkinsville

There is a lot to do on foot in Watkinsville. Park your car and explore public art, locally owned restaurants, and walking trails all within a 1-mile streak. Start at the Oconee County Welcome Center in Downtown Watkinsville, and pick up a map highlighting the area’s unique shops, historic sites, dining and parks.

 

Public Art

Oconee Cultural Arts Foundation Sculpture Garden

Known as the Artland of Georgia, the city of Watkinsville features two public art exhibitions in its downtown area. There are a total of 27 art sculptures and art panels as part of two exhibits: Public Art Watkinsville: A Pop-Up Sculpture Exhibit and Artscape Oconee: The Monuments of Artland. Many of the pieces are within walking distance of each other, and can be enjoyed while shopping and dining in the city. You can find a guide on this collaborative effort by the City of Watkinsville and the Oconee Cultural Arts Foundation (OCAF) in the welcome center. Also, stroll through OCAF’s on-site sculpture garden, a tranquil garden featuring sculptures in a variety of mediums.

Locally Owned Restaurants

Photo by Gary Kufner.

Within a 5-minute walk from the Welcome Center, you can enjoy a dozen locally owned restaurants specializing in baked goods, BBQ, steak, burgers, Mediterranean dishes and more. There is an endless option of dishes from local favorites like Kiki’s Bakeshop, JB’s Smokin’ Pig BBQ, Chops & Hops, The Traveling Hobo, and Girasoles. Keep your adventures outside and enjoy these restaurants’ outside dining patios, or dine-in to experience the ambiance of the dining establishments, which occasionally feature live music.

Walking Trails

Harris Shoals Park. Photo by JR Charles.

Watkinsville Woods is only a short walk off of Main Street, with six acres of greenspace. The wooded walking paths provide access to groves of native trees, a historic spring, and once-covered rock outcrop known as “Pulpit Rock.” Watkinsville is the only city in Georgia of its size with a walking park inside the city limits. Also less than a mile from Main Street is Harris Shoals Park, where visitors to the park can also enjoy a walking trail and picnic near the shoals of Calls Creek.

This post was first published on blog.exploregeorgia.org.

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Niche ranked Oconee County as the number one best county to live in Georgia for the second consecutive year! The county leads communities like Forsyth County and Metro Atlanta communities Cobb and Fayette counties in the 2017 ranking. Rankings are based on crime, public schools, cost of living, job opportunities, and local amenities from U.S. Census, FBI, BLS, and CDC reports. Remarkably, Oconee County moved to number 12 on Niche’s list of best counties to live in the United States from #24 on last year’s list.

Niche rigorously analyzes dozens of public data sets and millions of reviews to produce comprehensive rankings, report cards, and profiles for every K-12 school, college, and neighborhood in the United States. View Niche’s list of best counties to live in Georgia, here, and Oconee County’s Niche profile, here.

 

“There are many many opportunities to get involved in the community. I have interacted with well over 50 local businesses, helped non-profits, and utilized the school’s abundance of options. If myself as a senior in Highschool can be this involved, imagine what you, as a prospective business owner/homeowner/parent, can do!” – Current Resident

 

Whether you’re a domestic or international visitor, journeying to the small towns of Georgia and the South makes for authentic experiences you can’t find anywhere else in the world. In Oconee County, you won’t find souvenir shops filled with “I ♥ [insert city]” keepsakes at every corner as you would in the busy streets of Atlanta, New York City, or Los Angeles. Instead, you will travel scenic roads and explore historic downtowns to find unique gems to remind you of the one-of-a-kind experiences you had in rural Georgia. Here are three places to grab souvenirs in Watkinsville.

 

Happy Valley Pottery

Enjoy 15 minutes of scenic beauty from Downtown Watkinsville to purchase handmade art at Happy Valley Pottery. Local artists and owners of Chappelle Gallery and Happy Valley Pottery transformed an old chicken house into artists’ studios, where you can watch artists in their element creating glass art and pottery. After witnessing the creation of these local artists, you can purchase their art pieces used for both décor and functional purposes.

 

Empire South

 

Photo by Emily Faz. Model: Braden Bruce

 

Dress like the locals and show your love for Georgia with Peach State Pride shirts. The brand celebrates Georgia’s history and culture, and is headquartered right here in Watkinsville. You can find the shirts and other Southern-made items at Empire South located in Town Center in Downtown Watkinsville.

 

Oconee County Welcome Center

 

Share your travels with family and friends or remember your journey with postcards featuring historic sites like the Elder Mill Covered Bridge, the Eagle Tavern Museum, and the Ashford Manor Bed & Breakfast. Visit these sites and stop by the Oconee County Welcome Center located on Main Street to collect postcards to add to your postcard travel boards or journals highlighting your most memorable travel experiences in Oconee County, Georgia.

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