Ambitious Madison architecture book in the works
Renowned writer and photographer join with Historic Madison–Morgan Foundation to produce book
By Whitney Skeeters
In November, Madison will finally have a tangible, comprehensive celebration of its beauty and history. Citizens have expressed the need for a book to commemorate the city's unique story, and excitement over the bicentennial provided David Land and others the perfect opportunity to make it happen.
A year ago at a Greenspace Commission retreat, members discussed the idea of a bicentennial book on Madison featuring its unique architecture. A few months later, the commission's chairman, David Land, and a group of interested citizens began hashing out the details with renowned writer, Bill Mitchell, and photographer and producer, Van Jones Martin.
Mitchell and Martin were quick to point out that completing a book by November in time for the bicentennial year would be a daunting task.
Land admits it will be difficult to produce the book in so short a time span, but feels confident that, "we couldn't have gotten anyone better qualified."
Mitchell is an award-winning author and respected historian responsible for books such as Classic Savannah (1987), Gardens of Georgia (1989), Classic Atlanta (1991), and Classic New Orleans (1993). He has a long-standing working relationship with Martin, who will photograph, produce, and design the book. They completed their first project together, Landmark Homes of Georgia, in 1983. Martin owns Golden Coast Publishing Company and has been an architectural photographer since 1972. Atlanta resident Jim Lockhart will also act as a collaborating photographer.
Mitchell and Martin have been busy studying and photographing more than 80 homes to potentially be showcased in the book, talking with individuals about the city's history, and pouring through archival documents with Woody Williams.
Both artists expressed the importance of truly understanding the way of life of the people of Madison, both in the past and today.
Mitchell, who enjoys getting a biscuit and coffee at the Ye Olde Colonial Restaurant each morning, said Madison has a "charming village quality" he hopes to capture in the text. He has enjoyed researching the timeline of the community's development.
"You get a sense of the cohesion of this community," Mitchell said. "It's a very special place."
Martin has also made his own memories in Madison. He recently climbed to the top of the bell tower of the Courthouse: up the metal, spiral staircase into the dome, up another wooden staircase to reach the balcony, then up a rickety, old ladder and through the trap door. It was difficult, but he got the shot. Later he realized he was lucky he didn't go at the top of the hour because his head was a mere six inches from the bell.
"I think I would have had a headache for quite a while," Martin said. Like Mitchell, Martin thinks Madisonians, even those who are well versed in its history, will be surprised and pleased with the final product. The two truly appreciate how special seemingly ordinary things can be, and have a knack for portraying it.
"I think the project we have embarked on is really going to make folks in Madison proud and make people outside of Madison wish they lived in a place like it," Martin said.
An entirely new entity was formed to oversee the development of this and future books, the Historic Madison-Morgan Foundation.
The foundation has already raised about half of the target goal of $75,000 and hope to generate more from presales. Initially, 500 copies will be printed, 200 of which will be limited special editions. The special editions will be numbered 1 through 200 and will have two extra pages featuring the city and county logo and the signatures of Martin and Mitchell, city council members, the city manager, county commissioners and the county manager. The standard editions will sell for $50 and the special editions for $200. Pre-sales will begin in March.
Money raised from the book sales will fund similar projects in the future, such as a book about Madison's cottages or of Morgan County homes.
"There's a real appreciation of the historic resources we have in the community," said Land. "You start talking to people about putting together something like this and there tends to be a lot of excitement."