THE TOWN WITH THE SQUARE IN THE CIRCLE
Located in the heart of north Florida, Historic Monticello is a growing and thriving community of the arts. Monticello welcomes actors, dancers, musicians, painters, novelists, sculptors, woodcarvers, weavers, poets, puppeteers, historians, photographers and other artists and artisans with enthusiastic appreciation. Many artists come here to perform or show their work and decide to become a welcome member of our arts community.
Monticello artists and artisans offer music, theatre and dance in our 1890 Perkins Opera House and a Friday night Jamboree with music and dancing. Main Street Monticello hosts Singer/Songwriting events by local and Nashville songwriters. Musicians and music lovers from all over the country attend and enjoy our growing “Southern Music Rising” festival held every spring. As many as six stages are placed around Monticello’s streets for bands. The Opera House, empty lots and even some front porches are pressed into service to present dozens of performers.
Monticello is the home of The Foundation for the Preservation of American Roots Music, Inc, the creator and organizer of the “Southern Music Rising” annual music festival held in April each year.
Jefferson Arts, Inc is made up of local artists who practice many different forms including sculpture, painting, fiber art, potting, woodcarving and photography. The art center is housed in a historic school building and includes a gallery. The Jefferson Arts Gallery, Rosemary Tree, Tupelo’s and other local venues offer the work of local artists for sale.
Nationally known and local historians, novelists and other writers present their works in reading and signing events and book launches. Several sell their books through local stores. Poets read original work in our library and other venues.
A “different sort” of southern town many of Monticello’s colonial families still live here. Descendants of families who established residence in the immediate area during the late Spanish period still live nearby. Many residents are artists, retired professors and business people who visited, liked what the saw and adopted Monticello as home. These people love the slightly slower, kinder pace of their town, enjoy their neighbors, the art scene and make newcomers welcome.
Officially established in 1827, eighteen years before Florida became a state, Monticello was settled by families from Maryland, Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia. Prince Murat, Napoleon’s nephew was one of our early settlers. James Gadsden, Richard Call and others became Florida leaders.
Filled with beautiful, well-kept antebellum and Victorian homes, Monticello can boast of several exceptionally handsome public buildings as well as three structures designed by Atlanta Architect J. Neel Ried. Monticello streets are beautifully shaded by pecan and magnolia trees and great live oaks hung with Spanish moss. Yards are green and filled with azaleas, magnificent heirloom camellias and other flowering shrubs.
Located in north/central Jefferson County at the intersection of the Georgia-Florida Parkway (Rt. 19) and the Old Spanish Trail (Rt. 90) Monticello is conveniently located a short thirty minutes east of Tallahassee, Florida’s capital and twenty-two miles south of Thomasville, Georgia.
The land around Monticello is green with farms, great hunting plantations and protected conservation land, bordered by the strange, occasionally disappearing Aucilla River on the east and drained in the south by the brilliant, spring-fed Wacissa.
At least four Spanish Mission sites are located in southern Jefferson County and archaeologists have discovered Paleo-Indian sites occupied 12,000 to 14,000 years ago in the same area. Most of this part of the county is full of mysterious sinkholes created by the Aucilla sliding underground and reappearing at random. The wilderness reaches past the hidden Pinhook River to the Saint Marks Wildlife Refuge on the west.
FORGOTTEN ARCHITECTURAL TREASURES
By Anne Holt
Hidden along the quiet streets of small towns in south Georgia and north Florida are forgotten treasures—unique and beautiful houses and buildings designed by the south’s great architect, Joseph Neel Reid. Atlanta and Macon Georgia boast many Reid buildings, but the tiny towns of Quitman, Georgia and Monticello, Florida have their own examples of Reid’s genius.
Reid is described by author William R. Mitchell, Jr., as a “champion of architecture, gardens, and interior decoration, of fine arts and antiques, a leader of charm and style who helped to establish architecture and landscape architecture as professions in his region.”
A native of Alabama, Joseph Neel Reid began his career as an apprentice in Macon and Atlanta Georgia. He studied architecture at Columbia University in New York and the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. His first partnership included Hal Hentz and G. L. Norman. Adler joined the firm after the first year. Their earliest projects included homes in Colonial Revival style with Reid’s signature classical details and Italianate touches.
Reid redesigned and rebuilt the Jefferson Academy in Monticello Florida in 1914. Built first in the 1830s in frame, the school was redone in bricks handmade by slaves in 1852. In 1914, Reid added east and west wings and integrated them into the building’s new design with the sweep of wide steps and massive Neo-classical columns across the front portico. Smaller columns cross the ground level entrance at the back of the building.
Known by many residents as the old Monticello High School, this building sits high above the south side of Washington Street near Monticello’s town center. On a corner, the location offers a clear view of this perfect example of Reid’s eclecticism, a graceful mixture of Greek-Revival and neo-Georgian.
A few blocks down Washington Street from the old Monticello High School building is J. Neel Reid’s T. T. Turnbull house gracefully southern with its long Italianate loggia. This home was built for a representative to Florida’s legislature who later became a representative to the United States Congress. Complete Hentz and Reid drawings for both of these buildings are housed in the Georgia Tech archives in Atlanta.