Built just after the Civil War, in December 1865, this structure was originally home to Hamilton Lodge #16, Chapter #30, Free & Accepted Masons. Numerous commercial tenants occupied it throughout its history. Lou Brackett sent me an email yesterday and a copy of an article from the Harris County Journal detailing the impending demolition* of the building. According to the article, part of the roof has collapsed, as well as a section of the interior second floor and the city sees it as a potential liability. Once again, demolition by neglect has begotten actual demolition, and history goes with it.
*As of 20 September 2019, the building is being dismantled.
Warrenton Downtown Historic District, National Register of Historic Places
Yonah Mountain (3166′), better known as Mount Yonah, is the great natural landmark of the Sautee-Nacoochee Valley. Located between Cleveland and Helen, it is seen here from its eastern slope. Yonah means bear in Cherokee.
Today, Helen is known for its kitschy Alpine/Bavrian appearance and for the numerous outdoor recreation opportunities at its doorstep. But the village didn’t start out this way. The area was long occupied by Native Americans and in the 19th century became a hub for gold mining. It was a transient community during this time.
It was incorporated in 1913, due to the presence of the large Byrd-Matthews sawmill and named for a daughter of one of the timer company’s partners. It was successful until the Great Depression but after its closure the town fell into decline.
In 1968, Pete Hodkison, a local business owner, approached renowned Clarkesville artist John Kollock about suggestions for improving the appearance of his business. Kollock had been stationed in Bavaria while in the military and had long fostered an idea of bringing the look of the region to Northeast Georgia. Work began January 1969, after other local business owners warmed to Kollock’s idea to reimagine the entire town as an Alpine village. The Orbit Manufacturing Company was the first to be transformed. At the outset, there were just nine businesses in Helen but today there are nearly 30. All of the ornamental trim and details were originally done by Ray L. Sims and J. S. Chastain, local builders.
Helen has fewer than 500 permanent residents but at any given time is filled with tourists. It’s among the most popular tourist destinations in Georgia with up to 1.5 million visitors annually. The river attracts thrill-seekers and ecotourists and the shops and restaurants are a popular draw. Some have called it a tourist trap, and while it may have that feel, many visitors soon realize that the appearance of the place is but a small part of its appeal. Perhaps it took the Alpine look to bring people to the area in the 1960s but Helen’s perfect location and natural beauty are as big a draw today as its aesthetic. I prefer to think of it as a base of operations for great adventures to be found all around.
At Helen, not far from its source, the Chattahoochee is one of Georgia’s most natural and beautiful rivers.
The Helen to Hardman Heritage Trail is one of the nicest walking/hiking trails in Northeast Georgia, following the Chattahoochee River from the edge of downtown Helen to the Hardman Farm State Historic Site.
Much of the prime riverside property was donated to the Trust for Public Land in 2007 by Ted Turner and his foundations, insuring forever its protection from development. The one mile trail (2 miles round trip) is also ADA accessible.
Lush vegetation and pristine river views can be found all along the paved trail. We also found a few bear scratches, so be careful on the trail.
In Helen, access the trail from the parking lot just below the Helen Tubing & Water Park off Edelweiss Strasse.
White County was an important center of gold mining and this abandoned tunnel and equipment along the Chattahoochee at Helen are remnants of the boom era of the late 19th century.
The Plattsburgh Mining Company of New York was involved in the area, most notably with the England Mine.