Howard Finster’s Paradise Garden (left) and Joe Earle.

Joe Earle, editor-at-large for Springs Publishing, traveled back roads and highways throughout Georgia for years to locate the local oddities often described simply as “roadside attractions.” Along the way, he catalogued scores of the state’s one-of-a-kind monuments, markers and museums, and other strange sights standing on the side of the road. Here are his Top Five favorites.

1. The Georgia Guidestones: This monument, sometimes described as an “American Stonehenge,” appeared on an out-of-the-way hilltop in Elbert County in the 1980s. It stands nearly 20 feet tall, works as an observatory, and is inscribed with advice to the people of Earth in eight modern languages (Arabic, Chinese, English, Hebrew, Hindi, Russian, Spanish and Swahili) and several ancient languages (including Sanskrit and Babylonian). A local granite company built the monument, supposedly to the specifications of a mysterious visitor who called himself “R.C. Christian.” The Guidestones.

2. Pasaquan: The late Eddie Owens Martin, sometimes known as “St. Eom,” transformed his family home in the little west Georgia town of Buena Vista into a place like no other in the world, perhaps like no other in this galaxy. With concrete and bright paint, Martin added walls and outbuildings, sculptures of giant heads, painted mandalas, carved concrete snakes and murals of folks who could fly.

3. Paradise Garden: Folk artist and preacher Howard Finster created colorful visions of paradise at his home near Summerville in north Georgia. Finster started work on his garden in the 1960s. Over the years, he created a labyrinth of paths and structures made from recycled objects such as bicycle parts or tools. In 1976, at age 61, Finster had a vision that he should paint and produce sacred art. He created more than 46,000 works (he numbered them) before his death in 2001. His garden remains open to the public. See Paradise Garden for yourself Oct. 9-10 when Finster Fest hosts more than 60 folk and craft artists and live music spread across three stages.

4. The Iron Horse: This metal sculpture of a horse stands tall (10-plus feet) in a field outside Watkinsville like some lonely abstract scarecrow. It surveys the landscape, its hindquarters turned toward Athens, home of the University of Georgia, where it was made and shunned. University officials briefly displayed the sculpture on campus in 1954, but students, apparently not ready to accept abstract art, defaced it with spray paint and balloons, and tried to set it on fire. University officials quietly removed the horse and kept it in a secret hideaway. Years later, it appeared on a farm north of Greensboro, where, head held high, it has stood since.

5. Pig Hill of Fame: This hillside display of affection for pork got its start in the 1980s when barbecue restaurant owner Oscar Poole decided he needed to draw attention to his roadside eatery in East Ellijay. Poole put up little wooden signs shaped like pigs and soon customers were paying $5 apiece to have their names painted on similar signs and included in the porcine display. Hundreds of colorful wooden pigs cover the hill behind the restaurant.

Rough Draft

Rough Draft Atlanta is the digital home of Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta Intown.

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.