By Mary Catherine Gaston
With a few more than 2,000 residents, tiny Buena Vista, Georgia, is home to more than meets the eye. That’s fitting for a place whose Spanish name, borrowed from an 1847 victory in the Mexican-American War, means “good view.” Don’t be fooled, though—the quickest way to earn yourself a “You’re not from around here, are you?” is to mispronounce the town’s name. Pronounce it phonetically, according to the rules of Southernese (not Spanish), and you will fit right in.
You can get to Buena Vista a number of ways, but you can’t miss it if you’re traveling from Columbus to Americus on State Highway 26, as it will be the halfway point…and a very good place for a pit stop. The town’s one traffic light, at the corner of 26 and State Highway 41, stands at the southwest corner of Marion County’s courthouse square. One of several area buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the 1850 structure was constructed using local brick and replaced the county’s first, wooden courthouse which still stands in nearby Tazewell and also boasts a National Register listing.
Skirting the stately, antebellum courthouse are 6th and 4th avenues (which run east and west) and Broad and McDuffie streets (running north and south). Surprisingly, the square hops with activity today just as it might have a century ago, and amid the shops and restaurants on these four streets, you’ll find enough to do to fill a day. Since you don’t have all day to read about Buena Vista, we will give you the highlights and let you explore and discover the rest for yourself.
First, decide what you want to eat…there are plenty of choices! Located at the northwest corner of the square, at the intersection of Broad Street and 4th Avenue is Annie D’s. This little gem serves up soul food in a hole-in-the-wall whose parking lot is rarely empty. If you’ve learned to judge restaurants by the number of pick-ups parked outside, you will know at first glance that Annie D’s is one of the greats. This is your place for a meat-and-three and the latest info on the “rut” and deer corn prices. (If you don’t know what those terms mean, don’t worry. Just enjoy the food.)
If you’re looking for something a little fancier, head past the courthouse to the Sign of the Dove Inn and Restaurant, whose menu features finer fares and very reasonable prices. Both spots are locally owned. In fact, Buena Vista boasts more one-of-a-kind, locally owned and operated shops and restaurants than most any other town its size. So pick a place and enjoy supporting the local economy.
If you’re feeling like a little browsing after lunch, you can find something for every taste without cranking
your car. A stroll east on 6th Avenue will bring you to Wells & Welch Department Store. Purchased in 1956 by sisters Doris Welch and Mary Wells, the store is owned and operated today by Doris’ son, Mickey, and his wife, Judy. With the help of their daughters and granddaughters, all of whom are involved in some capacity of the operation, Mickey and Judy carry on the family tradition of providing high quality clothing to loyal customers from near and far. Though they specialize in outfitting the hard-working outdoorsman with all the best brands—Carhartt, Drake, Ariat and Muck Boots, to name a few—every well-dressed woman in the tri-county area knows Wells & Welch as a go-to location for finding the perfect outfit, shoe or accessory for work or fun. Beware if you go on Thursday—in keeping with a bygone Buena Vista tradition, the Welches close up shop every Thursday at lunch.
While you’re shopping, don’t pass by The Dime Store, just across 4th Ave. from the courthouse. Up front, find the official Buena Vista information center and a gift for any occasion, or stroll to the back to locate everyday staples and toys galore. If you find yourself parched, try the Front Porch Coffee Club for a delicious pick-me-up served with a smile…or, if winding down is what you’re wanting to do, pop in to the Swamp Fox Distilling tasting room on McDuffie St. behind the courthouse to sample locally produced, small-batch spirits. Dubbed the Swamp Fox in honor of the county’s namesake, Revolutionary War hero and guerrilla warfare pioneer Frances Marion, the distillery offers free tours and tastings six days a week.
If you have a little longer to spend, catch a show at Fox Hall or a concert by the students of Buena Vista’s Performance Academy. The square is home to a number of festivals and events throughout the year, including the Rural America Festival the second Saturday of October and a weekly farmers market during the summer.
A six-mile drive out of town will take you to Pasaquan, an other-worldly artist’s compound unlike anything you’ve likely seen or will see again. Home to an annual arts and music festival known as Pasafest, Pasaquan was named as one of 16 must-see locations for 2016 by CNN.
Again, there’s more to this little dot on the map than meets the eye. Come have a “good view” of this great little town for yourself! Click here to find the best route to get there, and enjoy a pleasantly rural surprise.