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November 29, 2012

TRAVEL: Arts, design excel in small Georgia community

— Guess who’ll cook your lunch on a jaunt to LaGrange, Ga.? The great-great grandson of the legendary town philanthropist, that’s who.

It happens at a stylish downtown Main Street restaurant named C’sons which is pronounced “seasons.”

Charles is the name of the father and Chase the son, hence the letter C. Plus the exquisite menu is seasonal, changing daily with what’s fresh.

Here’s why I found that significant. LaGrange has much more going on than most towns of 30,000 —art and history museums, fine culinary, handsome downtown facades and urban treescapes. Storytelling and art festivals.

Symphony, ballet and theater, with audiences to fill them.

Gardens and historic homes too, plus ancient artifacts in an antiquity center.

The patriarch and matriarch of the family, Fuller E. and Ida Cason Callaway set the tone, perhaps as early as 1895, and their notion of sharing abounds to this day.

Linger in LaGrange if you’re curious about the sweeping touch a foundation can exert on a community. Certainly creates excellent opportunities for travelers.

Textile mills were the family business, living on through philanthropy.

Spend the day in their home and gardens. Hills and Dales Estate they named it, and 35 acres today are in the Fuller E. Callaway Foundation.

Protected, preserved, beautifully maintained and filled with original family furnishings.

That means something since the Italian villa has 30 rooms. Enormous but not pretentious. Docents guide the tours but no barriers stop visitors from walking within the rooms.

Hills and Dales Estate filled me with a sense of belonging, not gawking as is often the case with grand homes.

Stroll among the boxwoods, trees and flowers. Continuously cultivated for 180 years these garden paths.

With 23 garden highlights noted on the tour brochure, you allow time to breathe the fragrances and to muse awhile.

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