This is an amazingly well-preserved general store, like most of the commercial structures in the historic area of Michell. I’m really surprised the whole downtown isn’t on the National Register of Historic Places. It should be.
West End, one of the finest Italianate houses in Georgia, was built by Colonel James Hall Nichols (1834-1897) upon his arrival in the Nacoochee Valley from Milledgeville in 1870. Nichols, who married Kate Latimer of Summerville, South Carolina, in 1856, served in the Confederate Army and was elected captain of the Governor’s Horse Guard in 1862, eventually attaining the rank of colonel. When he returned to Middle Georgia after the war, weak and in declining health, he learned that his wife Kate S. Latimer Nichols had been raped by two Union soldiers. This would affect her mental state for the rest of her life. While convalescing at the White Sulphur Springs Resort near Gainesville, Colonel Nichols became enamored of the Nacoochee Valley and began purchasing large tracts of land in the area. He named the property and house West End, for its location in the valley. Nichols was primarily a gentleman farmer by this time and owned several businesses, including Nora Mill. The mentally incapacitated Kate was lived out her days in an upstairs room, unwilling to face the outside world. Anna Ruby, the only child of the Nichols to live to adulthood and namesake of the nearby Anna Ruby Falls, told friends her mother was dead, as to deny her existence and her mental illness. Colonel Nichols had her committed to the State Lunatic Asylum in the early 1890s and she remained there until her death.
Original section of the Unicoi Turnpike, located near the main house
The property was sold to Atlanta entrepreneur Calvin Welborn Hunnicutt (1827-1915) in 1893. Hunnicutt, also a Confederate veteran (organized the Fulton Dragoons) and Fulton County commissioner, was a very successful businessman in postwar Atlanta, owning a plumbing business and stove works. The family never lived in West End but kept it as a retreat and vacation home. The Atlanta Constitution called him Atlanta’s oldest pioneer citizen upon his death. He had been in the city since 1847, when it was still a small village known as Marthasville.
The final owner of the West End property was Dr. Lamartine Griffin Hardman (1856-1937) who purchased it in 1903 and renamed it Elizabeth on the Chattahoochee, in honor of his mother. Hardman was the the son of a physician and a longtime physician himself who was also involved in numerous successful businesses. He joined his father’s practice in 1890 after study in New York, Pennsylvania, and London. He came to the Nacoochee Valley from Harmony Grove (present-day Commerce) and within a few years married the much younger Emma Griffin of Valdosta, whom he had courted for many years. He served in the Georgia House for eight years and sponsored a bill that created the State Board of Health. He also served for a year in the Georgia Senate and then made two unsuccessful runs for governor. He was finally elected to the state’s highest office in 1927 and served two terms.
Servants’ quarters and smokehouse
Dairy Barn, built 1910 as the centerpiece of Dr. Hardman’s Nacoochee Dairy
Corn Crib No. 1, built in the 1870s
Corn Crib No. 2
Gear House, where riding gear was kept for convenience. A covered 8-foot-deep cistern was discovered during renovation, and was probably originally used to collect water for the farm’s horses.
Caretaker’s House (Minish Family Home)
Nacoochee Valley Historic District, National Register of Historic Places
One of the most popular attractions in the Helen area, the Old Sautee Store has been in business since the 1870s. A well curated collection of early general store memorabilia gets the attention of visitors upon entering.
A market next door serves baked goods and hand-crafted sandwiches.
Sautee Valley Historic District, National Register of Historic Places
A very small historic downtown remains in Demorest and the existing structures have been nicely restored and are in use. The building on the right, the Starkweather Building or “Brick Block”, is the oldest, built in 1890. The other two-story building is the Chrisler Building, constructed in 1916. It is now home to Piedmont College’s Mason-Scharfenstein Museum of Art. Sweet Breads restaurant is just beyond it.
Demorest Commercial Historic District, National Register of Historic Places