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 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.
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.