Though it’s now a private residence, this structure once served as a hotel/boarding house.
Tag Archives: North Georgia Architecture
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.
Captain James H. Nichols came from Milledgeville to the Nacoochee Valley in 1870 and soon thereafter established Nacoochee Presbyterian Church (present-day Crescent Hill Baptist Church). Freedmen were welcomed by the earliest members. In 1903 the congregation began holding services in the Nacoochee Institute, where they remained until it was lost to fire in 1926. After meeting in an open-sided shed and a dairy barn, they completed the present church building in 1927. The belfry was added in 1989.
Sautee Valley Historic District, National Register of Historic Places
W. R. Asbury built this home and named it Oak Heights. Later it served as the Clarkesville hospital and was a boarding house known as the Charm House, hence its present moniker. It has also been home to a bed and breakfast and a restaurant. It’s a grand house and sits back from Washington Street on a beautifully manicured lot.
Washington-Jefferson Street Historic District, National Register of Historic Places
Jarvis Mudge Pieterse Van Buren (1801-1885), first cousin of President Martin Van Buren, came to Clarkesville from Kinderhook, New York, around 1840 to manage the Stroop Iron Works and help develop Georgia’s earliest railroads. He had been involved in the assembly and operation of the first successful American steam locomotive in New York. Not long after coming to Clarkesville, Jarvis quickly turned his attention to architecture, furniture making, and horticulture, and was responsible for the construction of numerous homes and public buildings in the area. He built this house as his residence when he came to Clarkesville.