From storied theatres that once hosted musical greats like Louis Armstrong, to beautifully maintained Colonial-era gardens, there’s no shortage of historical meeting and event venues across Georgia.
These types of spaces not only offer attendees a unique perspective into the event’s destination, they can also be a welcome reprise from cookie-cutter meeting and conference rooms.
We break down some of the most popular, renowned and historic event venues in Savannah, Atlanta, Macon and Athens that date as early as 1819. We also journey to the coast of Georgia to Sea Island, a private island that celebrates 92 years since it opened its first hotel, The Cloister, in 1928.
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If there’s one thing most people know about Savannah, it’s that it exudes Southern charm. With its iconic Spanish moss and 22 historic squares, Georgia’s oldest city is “already a bucket list destination for attendees,” said Summer Bozeman, communications manager for Visit Savannah.
When it comes to historic venues, Bozeman said a popular option, especially for outdoor events, is Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum, located in the historic Scarborough House. Built in 1819, the house is one of the earliest examples of domestic Greek Revival architecture in the South. The maritime museum offers wow-worthy outdoor event spaces, from the covered North Garden to the Scarborough Garden that features a large brick terrace.
“We’re seeing a lot of planners want something out of the box,” said Stephanie Sekula, community relations and events manager at Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum. “And we definitely offer that, being completely outside and offering this historic garden atmosphere.”
Photo: Charles H. Morris Center, Savannah; Courtesy of Visit Savannah
Planners can also take advantage of a variety of meeting spaces at Trustees’ Garden, one of the oldest sites in Savannah. It was first an experimental garden plotted by the original British colonial trustees to determine crops that would grow well in Georgia. Its venues include the Charles H. Morris Center, a private function venue with a 3,600-square-foot main ballroom that seats 300. The property also houses Kehoe Iron Works, which once served as a steel foundry. Its Metal Building boasts 8,000 square feet, a full catering kitchen and an outdoor plaza, while the Kehoe Building is ideal for smaller breakout meetings.
“Some of the finest and rarest examples of historic architecture and city planning are waiting to help draw attendees to planners’ events,” Bozeman said.
Photo: Kehoe Iron Works, Savannah; Courtesy of Visit Savannah
Photo: Aerial shot of Sea Island, a popular seaside resort on Georgia's coast; Courtesy of Sea Island Resort
Sea Island is a popular seaside resort island on the Georgia coast, about 60 miles south of Savannah. This year, the privately owned island celebrates its 92nd anniversary. It’s known for its privacy and security, even hosting the G8 Summit of world leaders in 2004.
In the past few years, the island’s ownership has invested over $30 million in enhancements at The Lodge—one of Sea Island’s accommodations—including six new cottages with 14 sleeping rooms, an oceanfront pool, pool house and an 18-hole golf course dubbed The Speedway.
Meeting spaces abound at Sea Island. Standouts include the Spanish Lounge, a recreation of the island’s original 1928 Cloister building. It comprises 1,536 square feet for up to 140 guests and is decorated with many artifacts of Sea Island’s original history. The Cloister Ballroom is the resort’s largest interior meeting space, clocking in at 7,855 square feet with a capacity of up to 600 guests. The ballroom features a decorative wood ceiling, chandeliers and movable walls.
(Photo: The Colonial Lounge lobby at Sea Island Resort; Courtesy of Sea Island Resort)
It’s likely that most planners are no stranger to Atlanta, with its thriving hotel portfolio and extremely easy accessibility through Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. But its historical venues might be more unfamiliar.
The Atlanta History Center, founded in 1926, is an all-inclusive, 33-acre destination that encompasses the Atlanta History Museum and two historic houses, the 1928 Swan House and the Tullie Smith Farm. It offers five indoor and outdoor venues, including Swan House gardens and a grand ballroom, for corporate events.
“The city’s history as a hub for rail is evident at Ponce City Market, as the trains would ship cargo directly from the warehouse,” said Mark Vaughan, executive vice president and chief sales officer for the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau, of the city’s Ponce City Market, which originally opened in 1926.
The complex now offers a variety of event spaces, including:
- Skyline Park, a 23,000-square-foot outdoor space that features an 18-hole mini golf course, full bar, carnival-style food and more.
- RFD Social, a 9,000-square-foot indoor space with exceptional views of Atlanta. Features include a large meeting space, two conference rooms, a catering kitchen and a bar with vintage games.
- 9 Mile Station, a rooftop bar and kitchen with 8,000 square feet of mixed indoor and outdoor space.
- Rooftop Terrace, a 10,000-square-foot indoor and outdoor private event space that also offers striking views of the Atlanta skyline.
Planners will also find an iconic, historic building at 200 Peachtree Street. Designed by Atlanta’s famous classical architect Philip Shutze, the building originally opened in 1927 as the Davison’s department store before becoming known as Macy’s. The building housed a stately marble-floored cosmetics and jewelry area, which is now one of the ballrooms of Southern Exchange Ballrooms.
The Peachtree building now houses six available meeting spaces under the Southern Exchange name, including the aforementioned Whitehall Ballroom, featuring 30-foot ceilings and those historic marble floors. Its 18,000 square feet can accommodate 850 to 1,075 guests. The wraparound balcony can accommodate 300.
“Atlanta is a world-class destination with incredible venues that will not only surprise and delight guests, but give a glimpse into the city’s past,” Vaughan said.
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Home to 15 historic districts, Macon is a meeting planners’ dream for hosting events in historic venues. The Armory Building was completed in 1885 and was the first permanent home of volunteer military unit the Macon Volunteers. Restoration was completed in 2006, and the building is now known as the Armory Ballroom. It has the capacity for 300 attendees.
You can also find one of Georgia’s most historic houses in Macon: Hay House, which was established in 1855 and declared a National Historic Landmark in 1974. Built in the Italian Renaissance Revival style, the distinguished structure boasts 18,000 square feet over four levels.
Rooms on the main level and downstairs can be used for meetings. For the latter, the summer dining room offers 330 square feet, and the summer living room offers 480 square feet. Both rooms can be set up with tables and chairs in various positions. A larger room available upstairs, the music room, boasts 1,104 square feet. And the double parlor offers 817 square feet. Downstairs, the scullery includes 500 square feet and tables that can’t be removed, but can be moved in various positions.
“All of these spaces are not just historic in their descriptions, but they’re visibly historic—they all have really beautiful historic architectural features,” said Trish Whitley, director of sales and services for Visit Macon.
The Douglass Theatre was founded in 1911 by Charles Douglass, a prominent black entrepreneur in Macon. The theatre was the “premier movie theatre and vaudeville hall open to African-American citizens in the city,” according to its website.
“It was one of the few places where African-Americans could perform during that time,” Whitley added. “Little Richard and Otis Redding got their start there.”
The space is also available for meetings, banquets and lectures, with a 314-seating capacity in the theatre. There are also two dressing rooms, a green room, a full sound and lighting system and technical staff available upon request. Planners can also rent the 1,500-square-foot annex that can seat 125 or hold 250 standing.
“We have unique meeting spaces, and we’re also very easy to get to,” Whitley said. “And being south enough of Atlanta, we’re very affordable, from accommodations to food and beverage.”
Located about 70 miles east of Georgia, Athens is a charming college town ripe with refurbished historical venues.
Georgian Hall originally opened in 1909 as Hotel Georgian, one of the first luxury hotels in the region. It closed its doors in 1975 but was purchased by a redevelopment company and renovated nearly a decade later. In 2016, a local restaurateur reopened the Grand Ballroom of the hotel, now operating as Georgian Hall.
The beautiful 2,200-square-foot space can accommodate 120 guests seated or 180 guests standing only. The Lounge, also inside the building, is 1,800 square feet and can accommodate 60 to 120 guests. Both spaces can be rented together or separately.
For a bit of music history, planners can look to the Morton Theatre, located inside the Morton Building, which is one of the oldest surviving vaudeville theaters in the country. It was built in 1910 by Monroe Bowers “Pink” Morton.
“In the early 1900s, the Morton Building also housed the offices of African-American doctors, dentists, a beauty salon and other professionals,” said Alvieann Chandler, communications specialist for Visit Athens. “Jazz singer Bessie Smith has performed there, as have Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington.”
Planners can rent out the theatre’s auditorium, which seats 480, for lectures, seminars, small banquets, and meetings and conferences. In addition, the Morton Theatre conference room is also available either as a standalone rental or an additional space to a larger rental. The room seats 30 and is equipped with a projection screen, boardroom tables, chairs and a dry-erase board.
“Most of our meeting venues are located in downtown Athens, which is surrounded by a lot of different boutiques and restaurants,” Chandler says. “The area is very walkable, so if attendees want to explore a little bit, they’re likely able to walk next door to a restaurant. It’s an easy place for meeting planners to plan different types of conferences.”
Atlanta CVB | 404.521.6600
Visit Athens | 706.357.4430
Visit Macon | 478.743.1074
Visit Savannah | 912.644.6400
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