Sonny Seals, Historic Rural Churches of Georgia

Various locations in Georgia

This effort started in 2013 with a mission to research, document, and preserve Georgia’s historic rural churches and their history. A website was launched with 14 churches in three counties; the website now contains more than 340 churches in 112 of Georgia’s 159 counties. This is made possible by a talented group of volunteer photographers and researchers across the state. The broad-based response to the success of the website led to a best-selling book, a PBS documentary series and successful social networking strategy.

There are several criteria for inclusion: congregations must have been formed prior to 1900 and located in the countryside or in a village of fewer than 2,000; the structure must be at least a century old; there must be significant historic architectural elements; cemeteries with 19th-century burials are especially valued.

The program has active collaborations with Georgia Tech and Pitts Library at Emory University to create a digital archive of widely scattered historic rural church history. A collaboration with Georgia Humanities, Georgia Department of Tourism, and Pitts Library is creating a “Historic Rural Church Trail” to promote cultural tourism and education across rural Georgia. The program uses history to promote cultural tourism, education, and economic development across the state.

Jury Comments

This is a very ambitious effort to conduct ongoing research to document faith environments that might be forgotten. It is very timely, the program makes the information more accessible through the web, raising the community’s awareness of these gems. The stories that go along with the architecture have been preserved.

Project Team Members

Sonny Seals
Kelly Gomez
Virginia Bolton

Project Consultants

Vizual Methods, Video Production
Various Volunteer Photographers