Douglas, GA – As I mentioned in the first day’s scanning report the first stop on my Douglas/Coffee County road trip was the Heritage Station Museum. It is very easy to find if you come into Douglas on GA 32; GA 32 becomes Ward St and if you’re coming from the east, just keep an eye out on the right just after you pass by US 441. It is a very distinctive brick train depot building. The depot was built in 1905 by the Wadley and Mount Vernon Railroad and was taken over by the Georgia and Florida Railroad in 1907. In the 1980s the depot was closed and in 1999 it was renovated and opened at the Heritage Station Museum.
The museum currently isn’t as active or complete as it once was due to local government budget issues and some smoke/fire damage. The staff and volunteers are currently working to get it back on it’s feet though and they do let visitors in to tour the museum, you just have to press a button next to the door and they’ll come let you in. I’m looking forward to making another visit once they’re back operating at full speed. It features displays on the history of Douglas and Coffee County from the time of the Clovis people, the founding of Douglas and Coffee County, the foundations of the area economy – naval stores, cotton, tobacco, general agriculture, and the railroad, area involvement in the military, local public safety, and key figures in local history, including a collection of key figures in local African American history.
One of the things you can immediately take from the museum being located in a former train depot is just how much of a key the railroad has been in Douglas and Coffee County history. The Georgia and Florida Railroad took over from the Wadley and Mount Vernon Railroad in 1907; in 1909 the railroad built railyards north of Douglas and the city became the Georgia and Florida Railroad central hub. The Georgia and Florida ran between Augusta, GA and Madison, FL where there were railroad connections throughout the nation, enabling Coffee County and the surrounding area to export naval stores, tobacco, and other agricultural goods. The Georgia and Florida Railroad was a major employer in Douglas and Coffee County and was key to the local economy. In the 1960s, the line was taken over by Norfolk Southern and continued to operate it until the late 1980s. After it fell out of use, Norfolk Southern deeded the depot to the City of Douglas for the purposes of a local history museum.
I’m very glad that I stopped at the Heritage Station Museum, if you are going to visit the Douglas/Coffee County area and like me weren’t very familiar with it the museum is an excellent introduction to the history of the area and should be one of your first stops. It is within easy walking distance of the downtown/historic area of Douglas and one of these days, I’ll be back to visit the museum when it’s back to full form then walk the historic district.