I was contacted a few months ago by a UGA faculty member for permission to use some of my photographs of the Laura Pope Forester home in Ochlocknee, Georgia (which I granted) in paperwork to add it as a “Places in Peril” with the National Trust of Historic Preservation.
My post from my original entry here in 2013 is still timely, so I’m pasting it here:
An entry for Laura Pope Forrester (they spell her surname differently, as it most often appears ‘Laura Pope Forester’) appears in the New Georgia Encyclopedia for her work as a self-taught artist in Ochlocknee who “created one of the state’s first outdoor art environments during the 1940s and 1950s. Her concrete figures, depicting such historical and literary personages as Nancy Hart and Scarlett O’Hara, came to be known as “Mrs. Pope’s Museum.””
The AP reported on the site in 1961:
One of the most unique museums in the nation, containing more than 200 statues hand-carved by a Mitchell County woman…
Mrs. Forester’s inventiveness was almost as incredible as her talent. Besides using scrap iron from junkyards, discarded tin cans and other waste material as braces for her statues, she painted the figures with liquids of many flowers and brightly colored berries…
…The sculptress, who created her first statue in 1900, died in 1953, at the Pope mansion in which she was born. The museum is sponsored by a civic club and the Chamber of Commerce.
Two hundred life-size statues…plus she painted, including painting directly on her home. In the early ’80s, the owner of the house reportedly had the statues destroyed in fewer than 48 hours. A witness to what was left later records: “I remember going out behind the house and seeing just piles of faces and hands and such…”
The author of ‘A Palpable Elysium: Portraits of Genius and Solitude‘ includes a quote from the owner who arranged for the destruction as saying, “They had done passed their days of bein’ useful. So we’ve taken down just about all of ’em.”
The author writes:
Based on the evidence that remains, this is one of the worst pieces of unconscious vandalism that one has ever heard of. How could the museums and historical societies and university art departments and collectors of the state of Georgia — or just local citizens with eyes in their heads — have allowed this destruction to take place?
The home’s been on the market for a few months, and as I checked today, the price has been lowered to $153k. The photographs on the realtor.com listing don’t show the artwork out front, and doesn’t make any notation about it.
I took these images in December, 2012:
An original pamphlet from when the home functioned as a museum appears here.
Google Map street view in April 2013: