This undated photo shows author Flannery O’Connor. Her final home is being given to Georgia College and State University after a small foundation struggled to keep up the historic property. The Savannah-born author spent the last 13 years of her life on the Middle Georgia dairy farm known as Andalusia. O’Connor completed her best-known works there, including the short story collection “A Good Man Is Hard To Find.” (Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

College takes over operation of author Flannery O’Connor’s farm

The final home of Georgia author Flannery O’Connor is under new management, but the vision to keep the historic property accessible to the public remains the same.

O’Connor, who was born in Savannah, spent the last 13 years of her life on the Milledgeville dairy farm known as Andalusia. The Flannery O’Connor Andalusia Foundation was formed in 2001 by two of O’Connor’s first cousins to preserve her final home, and it opened to the public in 2003.

Yet the foundation never charged visitors an admission fee, and struggled to maintain the 500-acre site by relying solely on donations.

According to the foundation’s board’s president Donna Barwick, Andalusia is being given to Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville, which can better afford the upkeep and is committed to helping its students and other visitors to Andalusia learn about O’Connor, her work and the landscape that inspired her.

O’Connor was a graduate of the college, which was then known as the Georgia State College for Women. She returned to her family farm in Milledgeville in 1951 after developing lupus, the disease that also killed her father.

While living at Andalusia, she completed her best-known works, including “Wise Blood,” “The Violent Bear it Away” and the critically acclaimed short story collection “A Good Man Is Hard To Find.” She and her mother, Regina Cline O’Connor, would reside there until her death in 1964.

“She’s our graduate, and we’re certainly proud of that. But Flannery is an iconic American writer; she’s a Georgia treasure and an American treasure,” college President Steve Dorman said. “To be able to share with the public the place where she did her infamous final writing, we’re very honored.”

Dorman says the school does not anticipate any major changes in the day-to-day operation of Andalusia, and intends to keep the site, which has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1980, as open and accessible to the public as possible.

“Andalusia is a special place for people who want to understand the environmental context of her writing, and our students and scholars who are studying the life and work of Flannery will greatly benefit by having these resources more readily accessible,” he said.

Georgia College also hopes to follow through with one of the foundation’s intended plans: Remove offices and the gift shop from the main house and create a separate visitor’s center. This will restore the main house to the way it was while O’Connor and her mother lived there, Dorman said, so it is “historically correct.”

The school also oversees Georgia’s Old Governor’s Mansion in Milledgeville, used by governors until after the Civil War, and plans to replicate its use of students as docents and tour guides there at Andalusia to minimize costs. Ultimately, Dorman says, they hope to “share this piece of American history with the world.”

Staff writer Martha Michael contributed to this article.