Valdosta Daily Times

State News

October 6, 2013

"The Walking Dead" brings life to Ga. town

GRANTVILLE, Ga. — When the cotton mill closed, the rural Georgia town of Grantville began a slow transformation into a ghost town.

Residents fled. Storefronts faded. Buildings decayed.

Over the decades, time turned the remains of the town into something almost post-apocalyptic, the perfect modern-day set for humans and “walkers” to attack one another. That’s how the hugely popular TV show “The Walking Dead” ended up coming to town and bringing new life to Grantville.

Several key scenes in one episode from the AMC series were filmed on and near a one-block stretch of antique buildings on Grantville’s Main Street.

The series’ fourth season premieres on Oct. 13. Crews have been filming the new episodes in Georgia, but they keep locations of future episodes closely guarded secrets until the shows air.

In Grantville, the town’s ruins were featured prominently last season. Bodies of walkers slain on the show were buried in a vacant lot beneath the brick archway remaining from a cotton mill building. Gunshots were fired from a nearby rooftop.

And actor Chandler Riggs, who plays a boy on the show, entertained himself between scenes by placing pennies on the railroad tracks, the coins soon smashed into souvenirs by passing freight trains.

Now, every Saturday, visitors from around the country and the world turn off Interstate 85 and onto a two-lane highway that leads to the tiny town 49 miles southwest of Atlanta.

Since last summer, more than 3,600 visitors have taken a free tour led by Grantville Mayor Jim Sells, who explains where each scene from the “Clear” episode — during which the character Morgan makes it his mission to “clear” walkers by killing them — was filmed.

Visitors have come from as far as Australia, Singapore and Brazil, giving new life to the town through tourism, Sells said. He calls it phenomenal, but adds: “We don’t understand it.”

“Nobody came after they filmed ‘Lawless’ and ‘Broken Bridges’ here,” he said, referring to movies shot in the town.

“But once this episode aired from The Walking Dead, people started showing up from all over.”

The cotton textile industry once fueled the economy of Grantville and the other towns in Coweta County, where a stretch of Interstate 85 is named the Alan Jackson Highway, for the country singer who grew up in nearby Newnan and wrote the 1993 hit song about the Chattahoochee River.

Grantville eventually became known by residents in the area as “the liquor exit” — it’s the only place in Coweta County to buy bottled liquor. But Sells said that “when textiles left, this town died.”

Then came the film crews.

Though Union troops destroyed train stations in many Georgia towns near the end of the Civil War, Grantville’s survived. The mayor recalled how “Walking Dead” production crews took just four hours to transform the old freight depot into a restaurant where actors battled zombies. The trains a few feet away occasionally interrupted filming, Sells said, since railroads typically don’t share train schedules with film crews.

Grantville is among a handful of rural Georgia towns undergoing a renaissance, thanks to the AMC show.

In nearby Senoia, many scenes are filmed in the historic downtown area, transforming into the fictional town of Woodbury for the show.

In Haralson, tours are offered each weekend for fans to enter the barn that was the scene of an ambush. They can hold an M16 out the same window as one “Walking Dead” actor did.

Other tours are offered in Atlanta, where a memorable scene from the show’s first season was filmed atop the roof of the old Norfolk Southern headquarters on the southern edge of downtown. Another key scene — a massive battle involving dozens of walkers and a military tank — took place in the Fairlie-Poplar Historic District.

On a recent Saturday in Grantville, visitors gathered at Station 22 Grill, as groups do every Saturday, to watch the “Clear” episode, the 12th in the show’s third season. Production crews blocked off Main Street for 15 days for filming.

Many townspeople know the dialogue by heart. A dishwasher behind the bar mouths the words: “You said that you would turn on your radio every day at dawn. ... And you were not there!”

When the episode ends, more than 50 people gather around Sells. He leads them around town and then inside a second-story apartment, the hideout used by one of the characters in the show. The walls are covered with chalk-drawn rantings as they were during filming. The small-animal cages, used to hold rabbits and other bait for walkers, and a couple of rifles are there, too.

On this day, tourists from as far as New York and Indiana are in the group. Jamie Silvey, 36, of Huntsville, Ala., said she had traveled to Georgia for three Walking Dead tours. She had already taken an Atlanta tour and planned to hit Senoia the next day. And Daniel Bradley of Warner Robins, Ga., said, “Once I found out all this was here, I just wanted to get a little piece of it.”

Sells said “The Walking Dead” and other filming have revived interest and optimism for Grantville’s future. He recalled how last month, actor Jim Carrey signed autographs and posed for pictures in Grantville after filming scenes for “Dumb and Dumber To.”

Now, Sells hopes “The Walking Dead” draws enough attention and visitors to Grantville that perhaps new businesses will locate there.

“We could use a grocery store, a drug store, a daycare,” the mayor said.

 

1
Text Only
State News
  • Kingston’s loss means less clout for Ga.

    For two decades, Rep. Jack Kingston was a congressman who routinely crushed his opponents on election night — winning a new term every other year with vote totals between 63 and 77 percent.

    July 28, 2014

  • salmonella 2 copy.jpg Trial nears for suspects in salmonella case

    Three people accused of scheming to manufacture and ship salmonella-tainted peanuts that killed nine people, sickened more than 700 and prompted one of the largest food recalls in history are set to go to trial this week in south Georgia.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • 2 injured in western Georgia small plane crash

    Fire officials say two people were hospitalized after small plane crash in western Georgia. 

     

    July 27, 2014

  • Nuclear Construction_Rich(1) copy.jpg Promises of easier nuclear construction fall short

    The U.S. nuclear industry has started building its first new plants in decades using prefabricated Lego-like blocks meant to save time and money and revive the once promising energy source.
    So far, it’s not working.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • Battle of Atlanta_Rich copy.jpg Civil War battle sites have a mobile app

    This week marks the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Atlanta, one of the key conflicts of the Civil War, and researchers at Emory University’s Center for Digital Scholarship have released a mobile app for the tour.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • Kingston, Perdue make final pitch in Senate race

    U.S. Senate hopefuls Jack Kingston and David Perdue hit every corner of the state in one final scramble before Georgia Republicans will choose one of them to take on Democratic nominee Michelle Nunn this fall in one of the nation’s most significant midterm election matchups.

    July 22, 2014

  • Senate race zeroes in on metro Atlanta, north Ga.

    Neither Republican running in Georgia’s closely watched Senate race has a natural advantage in metro Atlanta, where the state’s most populous area and a ring of northern exurbs are serving as the key battleground ahead of Tuesday’s runoff.

    July 21, 2014

  • Kingston, Perdue: Teamwork begins after runoff

    Businessman David Perdue and Rep. Jack Kingston have plenty of criticisms for each other as they appeal for votes ahead of Georgia’s Republican Senate primary runoff.

    July 20, 2014

  • Senate-Georgia_Rich copy.jpg Kingston, Perdue offer few details on budget fixes

    Neither Rep. Jack Kingston nor businessman David Perdue has detailed a clear course for changing the nation’s fiscal situation, instead broadly railing against government spending and debt in their campaign for Georgia’s open U.S. Senate seat.

    July 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Gavel-courtroom.jpg Republican Senate hopefuls clash in Sunday debate

    Georgia Republican Senate candidates Jack Kingston and David Perdue sharpened their attacks on each other during a heated debate Sunday with just over a week to go before their runoff election.

    July 14, 2014 1 Photo

Top News
Poll

Do you agree with the millage rate increases?

Yes. We need to maintain services
No. Services should have been cut.
     View Results