Discover the history of this neighborhood landmark that is in disrepair
This unusual Georgia home, tucked away in a forested area and hidden in vegetation, has a fascinating story to share. The early 20th-century property, photographed by Leland Kent of Abandoned Southeast, changed ownership a number of times before being bought by a specific Mr. John McCown in 1967. McCown, who helped create the history of the area and turned the house into a landmark, was both admired and despised in equal measure. Come inside to learn more about its turbulent past.
Restoration by nature
It is obvious from the abandoned façade that the property has been neglected for many years. The windows’ glass panes are gone, and the once-imposing central turret is starting to fall apart. With growth encroaching on the bottom level and leaves clinging to the porch roof, Mother Nature has reclaimed the building.
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The situation inside is essentially the same: the walls are covered in a thin layer of black mold, and portions of the ceiling are starting to collapse. The beautiful tongue-and-groove woodwork is unusually well kept, and the elaborate parquet ceiling attests to the richness of the home’s previous occupants, so the house still has more than a sense of its former grandeur.
A fascinating past
John McCown was a controversial figure who was raised in Harlem after being born in South Carolina in1934. He had organized the first-ever civil rights march in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and had gone on to work with the Congress of Racial Equality by the time he purchased the property in 1967. (CORE).
decor from a previous era
The worn furnishings in the living room of his former home give us a sense of McCown’s preferences. Although the blue and red paisley wallpaper were clearly fashionable in the 1970s, it would be considered a risky choice now. Although the fireplace has been bricked over, the mantel has been polished to a glossy shine and is adorned with Haut-relief carvings and a beveled glass mirror, retaining all of its former splendor.
The move to Hancock County
The coffered ceiling has held up fairly well, even though the wallpaper is flaking away to show exposed wood boards. When McCown relocated to Hancock County at the age of 33 to help with the voter registration of black people and assume the position of executive director of the Georgia Council on Human Relations, he also moved into the property. It was one of the poorest areas in the country at the time, with roughly half of its black population living below the poverty line.
Advancement at last
Moving upstairs, you will see that the walls are moist and covered in detritus, a far cry from the grandiosity of its glory. McCown established the Eastern Central Committee for Opportunity (ECCO) in the early1970s with the goal of improving the standard of living for black residents of Hancock County. The committee secured millions of dollars in private and federal funding within a short period of time, and with McCown’s assistance, Hancock County became the only area in Georgia to elect a board of county commissioners with a black majority.
Opulent historical details
The abandoned home still depicts McCown’s position of luxury with its lavish decorations. The campaigner allegedly accumulated hundreds of acres of land and many more homes over time. This white-painted staircase is a striking architectural element that has withstood the years amazingly well. It contains delicately carved balusters and newels.
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Old and new
A number of open doorways leading to the home’s bedrooms are located on the upstairs landing. A thick drape that is only half closed allows light to enter, producing unsettling shadows on the dust-covered floorboards. McCown decided on a delicate floral print with a contrasting navy-blue border for one side of the room and a very different, more modern wallpaper with graphic pastel stripes for the other.
Since there aren’t many personal items left, it’s uncertain if the man ever owned this room. A metal chair with leather upholstery, a chest of drawers, and some red flowers are all placed in front of a window. The floor is littered with pieces of broken china, and a long strip of wallpaper is curled up in a forlorn heap.
The clutter has been removed from another room, leaving an empty area with just a single chair. A popular fad in the 1970s, wood-effect paper is used to line the walls. The room is illuminated by the sun as it enters through the flouncy white drapes. You can imagine what the room might have looked like on a bright, foggy morning over fifty years ago.
An arms race
In Hancock County, racial tensions grew throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s. According to a 1971 New York Times article, the white mayor of Sparta allegedly bought 10 submachine guns with the intention of scaring the black community. Black officials retaliated by ordering 30 more submachine guns, and McCown is accused of inciting black people to hoard weapons.
A fragment of the past
The “arms race” was eventually put an end after Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter, who would go on to become the 39th President of the United States, was brought in as a mediator. If only walls could talk, we’re certain that these walls witnessed their fair number of late-night discussions between McCown and his political cronies during that tumultuous period.
It is nearly hard to see the surrounding land when you step outdoors onto the veranda. A dense covering of plants that is beginning to creep across the decks and towards the house hides the balcony. This terrace’s planks would have once been paced by McCown as he admired the property’s expansive gardens and possibly thought about his next move.
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The creeping vines at the front of the house have started to die back in some spots, exposing more of the elaborate wraparound veranda. They were intended to provide shade in the summer and provide a pleasant outdoor seating area, and they were a typical feature of early 20th-century residences. A sign of the homeowner’s riches is still visible if you look closely at the intricately carved posts, balusters, and brackets.
Controversy in Hancock
Money turned out to be the main cause of McCown’s eventual failure. The Atlanta Constitution published many articles in 1974 that questioned McCown’s legitimacy to lead ECCO and claimed that he had diverted poverty funding for his own benefit. The last straw was that.
Being looked into
A financial internal audit of ECCO was requested from the Internal Revenue Service. The results showed$281,000 in “questionable” costs, but the total was later lowered to $90,000. To determine whether the monies given to the group had been mishandled, a federal grand jury inquiry into ECCO and McCown was started.
Concealed in the garden are secrets
The grounds surrounding the abandoned property are in far better condition than the actual house. The low bushes are well clipped, and the grass has just been cut. There is a tiny clearing behind the home that is almost entirely surrounded by box hedges. A weird stone block sits at its heart.
The ultimate resting place of McCown
John McCown, who passed away on January 30, 1976, at the age of just 41, is interred here. Suspended from his position as CEO of ECCO, McCown made the decision to fly with a few buddies in a single- engine Cessna. McCown and two of his three buddies died when the plane crashed in the woods not far from his house.
Abolition of ECCO
His passing had no effect on whether the trial would proceed. Ultimately, five ECCO members were found guilty of misusing federal poverty monies, thereby ending the organization’s operations. Hancock County saw great progress, but the ECCO’s credibility was destroyed.
The house still stands as a monument to John McCown’s contributions to Hancock County. The “political boss” of Georgia unquestionably helped the civil rights movement in the United States succeed, whether he was a charlatan or a savior. His legacy endures even as his abandoned home steadily deteriorates.
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