45 miles W of Valdosta; 35 miles NE of Tallahassee; 230 miles S of Atlanta
From the 1800s to the early 1900s, Thomasville was one of the world's most fashionable places, hailed by Harper's Magazine in 1887 as "the best winter resort on three continents." After the Civil War, when much of the South was embittered and in ruins, a remarkable and progressive group of civil leaders began building resorts that attracted the wintering wealthy. Few other places in the South wanted to encourage the "damn Yankees" at the time. Regrettably, every one of the grand hotels that once flourished here has disappeared, victims of fires, rot, termites, and the opening of nearby Florida as a holiday destination. Many of the Victorian homes of the town, however, remain intact, attracting architectural enthusiasts from around the state.
Considering that the wealth of North America's Gilded Age once disported itself here, Thomasville remains relatively obscure. Yet at various times, the world press has descended on the area, notably when President Eisenhower used to play golf here, and when Jacqueline Kennedy was discovered hiding out here following the assassination of her husband.
Historic Thomasville remains unique in the South today as the centerpiece of a county containing approximately 70 enormous plantations encompassing some 300,000 acres. Only the post-Civil War prosperity of the town's 19th- and early-20th-century tourism allowed these estates to survive intact. Throughout the rest of the South, plantations were broken up, subdivided, sold for back taxes, allowed to fall into decay, and, in a later age, turned into housing developments. Regrettably, of the many that survive, only one is open to the public.