- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 1, 2005

PITTS, Ga. - Years of neglect left the once-thriving business district of this rural community looking just like its name sounds.

But these days, residents want to turn the town of 300 into a destination for travelers searching for antiques, fine arts, pottery, Southern barbecue — and a view of small-town life in southern Georgia.

“We actually have people who stop … and take their pictures with the city limits sign,” said Mayor Sandy Guest. “I guess it’s so they can tell their friends they have been through the pits.”

The roof on the town’s small movie house has collapsed, and vines and weeds grow where patrons once watched “Gone With the Wind” and Roy Rogers. The rusty pumps at King’s Garage stopped working back when regular gasoline cost only 61.9 cents a gallon.

Decades of rust and rot have taken a similar toll on other buildings in Pitts’ two-block downtown, where farmers and their families used to arrive in mule-drawn wagons on Saturdays.

Now, downtown Pitts is showing signs of life again. On one corner, Emery Mathews is at work with his skill saw and chalk line, converting a service station into a flower shop.

Jackie Guest, the mayor’s father-in-law, has purchased a building and plans to turn it into a general store.

Delano Braziel, a potter who returned to his birthplace after retiring from teaching at Valdosta State University, has transformed a portion of his father’s old general store into a pottery shop.

He plans to sell antiques in the building next door. He’s purchased two buildings across the street for an art gallery and gardening store, and he wants to move the town’s old railroad depot back to town from his farm. There are also plans to open a cabinet shop specializing in old-style furniture and a barbecue restaurant.

“It’d be a break from the interstate where you can see some of south Georgia,” Mr. Braziel said. Interstate 75 runs 15 miles to the west through Cordele.

The demise of Pitts’ downtown is similar to the decay in many other small Southern towns.

“The people left,” Mrs. Guest said. “Agriculture was mechanized. People had to move to town to get a job. They put in the big grocery and department stores.”

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