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Madison City

Madison City Hall is located at 132 North Main Street, Madison, GA 30650; phone: 706-342-1251.

Beginnings [1]

The City of Madison, centrally located in Morgan County, is the county seat of a rural community. Madison maintains its small-town character and an extremely modest population growth under increasing exurban development pressure from the metropolitan Atlanta area. The development pattern remains predominantly that of a historic one-mile circular city, where traditional single-family neighborhoods surround the downtown core and two modern corridors — one commercial and one industrial — stretch southward to Interstate 20.

Founded in 1809, Madison thrived as the center of civic life and an agrarian economy, attracting nearby planters who gathered to transact business, worship, educate, and recreate. With the arrival of the railroad in the 1840s and the rise of cotton as a monoculture, the town experienced the first benefits of becoming a transportation hub. Madison flourished with cultural amenities, grand Antebellum architecture, and as an early center for advanced female education until the Civil War. Despite the toil of the war, the town itself survived virtually intact thanks to Mayor Joshua Hill, former U.S. Senator and anti-secessionist. Even so, Downtown Madison was nearly wiped out by the Great Fire of 1869 which destroyed many structures and almost all businesses.

Downtown Madison quickly rebuilt and surrounding neighborhoods showcased the growth of the Victorian era, reflected in architectural detailing then plentiful with the increased mobility provided by an additional railroad and local enterprises, e.g., Madison Variety Works. With the abolition of slavery, African-Americans established neighborhoods, churches, schools, and commercial centers, and by 1900, the population grew to roughly 2,000. The new century focused upon civic progress: public education, a new courthouse, public utility systems, one of twelve state regional schools, etc. By the early 1920s, the automobile arrived along with paved streets, followed thereafter by federal state-aid projects paving connections to surrounding cities. Whereas, Madison had previously been the intersection of major rail lines; the community began to grow and prosper as a different kind of transportation crossroads. Soon thereafter, the boll weevil as well as increased diversity in commerce and industry led the transition away from the former cotton-based economy.

While the Great Depression lingered, there was very little private investment. Thanks to the Public Works Administration and the WPA, Madison gained jobs and new buildings: U.S. Post Office, City Hall, and the Georgia State Patrol Outpost. The major economic change of the 1940s was the shift from cotton and other labor-intensive crops to dairy farming. Mid-century Madison also began to capitalize on its great architectural heritage by dipping its toe into tourism with its first Tour of Homes in 1950 (now the #1 industry for Madison and second only to agriculture for Morgan County). Commercial enterprises began to appear on the fringe of Downtown and the city limits along Main Street. In the 1960s and 1970s, the city continued to grow consistently — about 20 people or 4 families per year — and as a direct result of the confluence of the highway system, which expanded transcontinental including Interstate 20 (conceived as the Deep South's major east-west corridor - TX to SC.) Transecting Georgia, I-20 arrived by 1969 in Madison, which now has a pair of interchanges. Having taken 100 years to double its first census, Madison's population finally crossed the 3,000 threshold in 1970; however, the municipal racial demographics remained about even.

The 1980s were a period of thoughtful deliberation and proactive planning. Madison used its two newest planning tools: Community Development Concept Plan (precursor to state-mandated comprehensive plan) and A Study of the Impact of Growth (an evaluation of potential city limit expansion); annexed the interchanges, doubling the city's land mass; and invested in its future quality-of-life by becoming a National Main Street community, establishing a Downtown Development Area, designating the Madison Historic District, and participating as a Tree City USA. With deterioration of businesses at the city's former edges, unguided growth at the interchanges, and the perceived threat of the 441 Bypass, Madison also established the Corridor Design Overlay to provide guidance for growth along corridors leading into and through the community. Economically, the town attracted several industries, commercial development serving beyond its county, and significant investment in private homes, downtown structures, and new enterprises in its historic areas.

With the approach of the millennium, Madison saw the fruits of thirty years of stable leadership, long-range planning, and community improvement efforts - using Madison's historic context and environment to frame the future (i.e., honored as #1 Small Town in America (2001); one of the nation's and Georgia's first Preserve America Community (2004); the premier Downtown Excellence Award by the GA Downtown Assoc. (2009), etc.). Nearly 50,000 tourists per annum visit the community, supporting more dining and retail establishments than a typical rural community of 3,636. Despite the recent banking collapse, Madison's property values and business community are weathering these harsh economic times with a vigor not in evidence in neither the county nor similar communities.

Madison as Described in 1895 [2]

Madison, the center and county seat of Morgan County, was laid out and incorporated in the year 1813. Its exact location was determined by the existence of a beautiful spring, near which the first courthouse was erected, and which still wells up in the very heart of the city.

Owing to the great and varied resources of the county immediately surrounding Madison, the town has enjoyed a continued season of prosperity from the beginning of her history, at no time previous to the late civil war having suffered serious calamity. For many years before the breaking out of war between the States, Madison was known as one of the wealthiest towns of its size in the South, and was a center of culture and refinement.

Two large and widely known female seminaries were located here, and many wealthy planters from the surrounding country removed to Madison to secure her exceptional social and educational advantages. White's "Statistics of Georgia," published in 1849, states that at that time the town contained 1,200 people and was regarded as an exceptionally wealthy and progressive town. It then had a cotton factory running 2,016 spindle and a number of commodity stores doing a brisk annual business.

Even the changed conditions imposed upon Madison and her tributary country by the war did not long retard her progress. Her picturesque and healthful situation, her mild yet invigorating climate, her proximity to the great commercial centers of the South, and the exceptionally high character and social qualities of her people, have all contributed to give her a continued and substantial growth. In 1870 her population numbered less than 1,400; in 1880 it had increased to 1,900; in 1890 to 2,500; and at present a busy and prosperous population of 3,200 are constantly adding to her wealth and importance.

  1. City of Madison, Urban Redevelopment Plan, Developmental History, | Spring 2011,, accessed June, 2011.
  2. A Fruit Paradise, issued for Madison and Morgan Counties, Georgia, Cotton States Publishing and Advertising Company, Atlanta, Foote and Davies Co., Printers and Binders, 1895.
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