Joseph Neil Reed, Architect in Monticello, Jefferson County, Florida

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.

Built in  frame in 1838, rebuilt in brick 1852, remodeled by J.Neel Reid in 1914

Built in frame in 1838, rebuilt in brick 1852, remodeled by J.Neel Reid in 1914

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 of Gadsden County, Florida 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 1930s 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.

The Turnbull House was designed by Joseph Neel Reid 1918

The Turnbull House was designed by Joseph Neel Reid 1918

A few blocks down Washington Street from the old Monticello High School building is Reid’s T. T. Turnbull house 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.

Rear View of remodeled Old Monticello High School

Rear View of remodeled Old Monticello High School

 

 

The Wonder of Small Town Shopping

I Found It campaign logo - on or T shirts, and decals for merchants to place on bags and packages

I Found It campaign logo – on Main Street T-shirts, and decals for merchants to place on bags and packages

It is amazing sometimes, what you can find to buy in a small town. Monticello has some particularly interesting examples. Take, for instance a store called “The Naked Ewe.” Well now. What do you think that means?

It is actually a yarn and related gift shop. I’m not kidding. They have yarn and thread, all you need for knitting or crocheting, and many handmade gifts. You can buy a handmade sweater, bonnet and bootees for a baby gift for a reasonable price. They even have handmade adult clothing.

The Naked Ewe is over on Cherry Street, just one block off North Jefferson (Route 19 just north of the courthouse round-about) near Dogwood Street. It sits right beside Mattco – our dance and exercise studio – peep in the window if you’re interested.

We also have a fascinating place called Huckleberry’s. That store is over on West Washington Street (Route 90, one block west of the courthouse) right beside Tupelo’s. Never heard of it? Imagine finding antiques, re-furbished and re-purposed furniture and gorgeous flowers right on the corner at Mulberry Street—the flower garden beside the store is lovely and changes all the time..

West Washington St. in Monticello FL in front of Huckleberry's.

West Washington St. in Monticello FL in front of Huckleberry’s.

If you never visited Tupelo’s you are in for a treat. They are open Tuesday through Saturday for breakfast and lunch with an occasional evening celebration with music. They serve real food beautifully prepared—they call it “slow food” because they use real organic ingredients. I am addicted to one or two of their specialties including a cinnamon roll that is beyond delicious.

That’s not all – you want interesting shopping? – Tupelo’s sells local goodies such as honey, jams and similar items, even art. They also sell bee-keeping supplies–that’s right–they have a whole room of those things.

That is only a few of the interesting shops to find in Monticello, Florida. We even have a couple of new ones in the works. Every time I check on their progress they tell me SOON. I’ll tell you about it.

Monticello’s Ecological Park

Monticello Ecological Park Committee meeting on the bridge

Monticello Ecological Park Committee meeting on the bridge

 

Located on south Water Street, at the top of the hill beyond the old school buildings, our city council purchased 26+ acres of old growth forest to give Monticello our own “urban forest.” Volunteers removed truck-loads of trash from the acreage, scoured it for invasive species and removed many—helped design trails and picnic grounds. The city found grant funding for building walks and bridges to provide access to the entire park and protect its wetlands.

Young Hawk

Young Hawk

If you haven’t visited yet, take your children or grandchildren with you, bring your Home School group. The Ecological park a great experience. You will hear or see more than 30 species of birds including turkeys, warblers, and owls. Bird watchers have certified sightings of every ordinary bird you can imagine and a few surprise visitors. Main Street and the Chamber are working to help the City get the park on the Great Florida Birding Trail. Birding groups from Tallahassee and the surrounding area are already visiting.

This child found butterflies and other interesting thing on the park trail

This child found butterflies on the park trail

A Monticello Ecological Park visit is a learning experience even for many adults but it is especially so for children. You will find signs naming trees and shrubs and signs explaining why we were so careful to protect the wetlands that actually help provide the clean, sweet water we drink right here in Monticello. I was fascinated to learn that the contractor who built the walks and bridges pushed the construction ahead of his tractor, never running a wheel into the wetlands.

There is fun in the park, not just education and exercise. You could host a luncheon on the bridge—turn left as you enter the park to find it. I attended a “brown bag” lunch hosted by Katrina and the Chamber. She placed folding tables and chairs on the bridge and we ate and discussed Monticello’s needs and our future for more than an hour.

The Park’s picnic area is used by the Boy Scouts on a regular basis, but it is open to you and any citizen. This area is to your left as you enter the park. The cleared picnic area boasts tables with benches and other things for your enjoyment. Extra parking is provided by our friends at the American Legion Post.

Go straight at the entrance and look to the left for the picnic area.

Go straight at the Park entrance and look to the left for the picnic area.