Mrs. Pope's Museum and GardenLaura Pope Forester (1873 - 1953)
192 Pope's Store Road, Ochlocknee, GA, 31779, United States
early to mid 1900s
The property is privately owned; however, private tours can be arranged. Contact (850) 459-9620 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
About the Artist/Site
Between 1900 (other accounts say 1908 or 1919) and her death in 1953, Laura Pope built an extraordinary garden around her antebellum rural residence. The garden comprised more than 200 figurative sculptures, mostly three-dimensional, but others were bas-reliefs or busts set into or topping the walls and the elaborate arched gateway on the periphery of her rural property. She built her works up on a metal infrastructure composed of found objects such as scrap iron and tin cans, later covering them with concrete. She often later colored them with vegetable dyes she brewed from flowers and berries.
Her subjects, mostly “outstanding individuals of fact and fancy” and mostly female, featuring diverse and wide-ranging significant or iconic women (the founder of the Red Cross, Japanese war mothers, spinster schoolteachers, the first woman to successfully sue for divorce in Georgia, the first woman Senator Mrs. W.H. Felton, and Revolutionary War heroine Nancy Hart), but also figures from both sexes from tales and legend (Scarlett O’Hara, Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, the Indian hero Uncas of James Fenimore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans, and Cleopatra), and history (illustrious generals such as Eisenhower and MacArthur). There was also a series of seven faces representing the world’s major religions; they appeared to be plaster casts, and it has been suggested that they were molded from her friends.
Mrs. Pope’s husband had been a justice of the peace, so she also created “Cupid’s Room” within her museum: she placed a mirror so that when the bridal couple entered she could say, “Take a glance behind and get a last look at freedom.” Her sense of humor pervaded many of her sculptures and bas-reliefs as well. It was said that she preferred a sack of cement to a new dress any day.
After her death, the family held onto the property without making significant changes, and for some time it remained a local tourist attraction and roadside curiosity that was supported, in part, by a civic club and Pelham’s Chamber of Commerce. However, in 1974, her only surviving son sold it to a mill owner from the nearby town of Meigs. He thought that the sculptures “had done passed their days of bein’ useful,” so they dismantled and destroyed most of the freestanding works, leaving only some dozen that had been built into the walls. Most of the rest were destroyed in 1981, but by 1990 several still remained within the garden walls. The present owners (since 1995) have not effected additional damage. The house had been put up for sale in 2009, but is no longer on the market.
Those remaining works that had been part of the street-side wall and gateway are viewable from the road, but the site of the museum is now held privately and is not open to the public.
~Jo Farb Hernández, 2014
Update: The site is now owned by Dan and Michelle Dean who have formed a nonprofit called Popes Museum Preservation Inc., "established to preserve the history and artwork of the former home of Laura Pope Forester." While the home is currently a private residence, tours may be arranged.
found objects, concrete, natural dyes, scrap metal
Map & Site Information
192 Pope's Store Road
Ochlocknee, GA, 31779 us
Latitude/Longitude: 30.9825245 / -84.1605313
Buena Vista, GA