Crescent Hill Baptist is nestled in the North Georgia foothills overlooking the picturesque Nacoochee Valley, carved out over centuries by the headwaters of the Chattahoochee River. The church also overlooks a historically significant ancient Indian mound built by the Mississipian Indian culture known as ‘Moundbuilders’. The mound is a famous local landmark that was formally excavated in 1915 by a team of archaeologists headed by Frederick Webb Hodge and George H. Pepper. George Gustav Heye wrote a book about the excavation, The Nacoochee mound in Georgia, with Hodge and Pepper, which was published in 1918. The excavation uncovered 75 human burials, including 56 adults, seven adolescents, and four children, and eight bodies that were too degraded for their ages to be determined.
The first white owner of the land where the church is located was Daniel Brown, one of the first settlers in the area, who purchased it from the local Cherokees after the Treaty of 1819. Forty years later, in 1869, the land was sold to Colonel James H. Nichols of Milledgeville who began extensive construction in the area on several of the buildings (including the Victorian house) on what is now the Hardman Farm. He was responsible for the completion of the church in 1872. The church was originally known as the Nacoochee Presbyterian church. In 1893 the property was sold to Calvin Hunnicutt of Atlanta who sold it to Dr. L.G. Hardman in 1903. It remained in the Hardman family until given to the State of Georgia in 2002. The house and outbuildings are open to the public. Dr. Hardman was a very successful physician and entrepreneur who had extensive business interests across the state. Lamartine Griffin Hardman (April 14, 1856 – February 18, 1937) served two terms as the 65th Governor of the state of Georgia from 1927 to 1931. He was the state’s oldest elected governor at the age of seventy-one. Two years later he was elected for a second term. For more information on Dr. Hardman click here.
In the early 1900’s, the Nacoochee Presbyterian church ceased holding services in the church and it remained unused until 1921 when Dr. Hardman allowed a group of Baptists to hold their services there. They re-named the church Crescent Hill Baptist. The main part of the church building has remained unchanged. The pulpit, pews and stained glass are original. It is a remarkable rural church with uncommon architecture and charm that has been lovingly cared for by the congregation, some of whom are descendents of the original church founders. The church has approximately 150 members and services are held every Sunday at 11 am. Come visit this remarkable example of original architecture from the 1870’s.
There is no doubt that, after viewing the exterior of this 1872 church, you realize the style and architecture are radically different from the “rectangular box having little external or internal decorative elements” that had dominated rural church designs for the preceding 100 years. This church is one of the first in rural Georgia to adopt a new, Victorian style now called Gothic Revival or Carpenter Gothic. By the end of the century, Gothic Revival would become one of the most popular styles chosen for urban churches and even many rural churches of all denominations. One look at the interior of this meeting house confirms that……”this is not your father’s and mother’s church.”
Gone are the traditional, rectangular, high 9×9 or 12×12 sash type windows or the fixed, framed, single gothic windows. Instead, we see radically redesigned “gothic- like” windows formed by a set of three-part, pointed windows. The two larger windows are made of clear glass laid in diagonal mullions. Nestled in the points of those two is a much smaller, square window placed diagonally to complete the pointed arch. Further decorative elements are added by placing colored glass panes in the window peaks. This is a new approach to providing interior illumination as well as unique decorative elements within the sanctuary.
In this view from the pulpit, the many new interior design and decorative elements encompassed in the Gothic Revival style are even more apparent. Above we see that the walls are board and batten panels that soar upward and end in a point… emulating a gallery of Gothic arches. The exposed beam construction raises the ceiling and exposes the repeated pointed arch affect produced by the gables. The fanciful wood detailing (diamond pattern lattice work, pointed arch gallery rails, enhanced detailing of the columns and arches) all reinforce the Gothic Revival style. This is a harmonious place that can elicit joy and provide a unique environment for worship services and the singing of hymns.
The gallery at Crescent Hill is an inviting place for enjoying a service. The relatively small interior space of the sanctuary interior creates an air of intimacy wherever one might be seated. That intimacy is actually enhanced when you sit above the main floor and gain a totally unimpeded view of this beautiful church. In this shot through the gothic arched gallery railing, the unity of the architectural, decorative and physical components is clearly evident.
In this photo, we are experiencing the exhilarating view from above the gallery rail. The almost ethereal aura created by the exposed truss construction and the board and batten arched panels can be fully appreciated now. The monochromatic white interior provides a charming light and enhances the airy sensation within. And, how about the lovely gothic accents obvious in the slim columns and supports in the chancel area. This is pretty remarkable architecture for a rural Georgia church constructed in 1872.
Further proof of the changing times in the south in 1872 is the growing availability of hardware, building materials and other construction items after the close of the Civil War. This church is filled with them, and the above steel door handle/lock combination is a great example. Machine made and stamped, standardized components such as this one made construction faster and cheaper for all. And, they still function as designed over 140 years after installation!
This is a photo of the Indian Mound located in front of the church. It was built many centuries ago by the Mississippian Indian Culture which dwelled in this area of the south. It, among other things, served as a crypt for 75 of these ancient people. The gazebo was constructed in the late 19th century by the land owner, Captain James H. Nichols. It is reputed to be “the most popular tourist photo site in Georgia.” We can certainly see why.
Looking very much like the above photograph, this church still greets members and visitors today as it has since 1872. A quaint little sanctuary at the end of mountain dirt road. It is a remarkably well preserved structure and the present congregation intends to see that it remains sound, solid and available for all to enjoy in the decades to come.
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I came to the church just to visit twice and I saw the spirit of an Indian inside the church window and took a photo of it this is a beautiful sacred place with some real history
Love this church and the history! Is the church still open for tours?
We think they still have regular services.
What about Chattahoochee United Methodist, org. 1860, where the movie, “I’d Climb the Highest Mountain” was filmed?
My husband and I were married in this church in 1981. Such a beautiful church!
My fiancé and I would also love to get married here. It’s just the perfect place. Could I get contact info on whether they allow non-members get married here?
It is our understanding that the church is open. They are very active and probably have a Facebook page or a phone number. Good luck.
Hello, I have always admired your lovely church and I am wondering if, one must be a member of your congregation to marry there?
If not, do you have any info on your wedding procedures?
Thank you for your help.
Sincerely,C. Shawn Parks
We will try to get a contact for you Shawn.
Beautiful. Thanks for sharing all this information. God BLESS AMERICA.
There are four campgrounds in White County that need to be photographed and included in this collection of historic buildings/sites.
Locations? We will take a look. Thanks.