Tag Archives: North Georgia Landmarks

Hamilton’s 1865 Masonic Lodge Slated for Demolition

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.

 

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Filed under --HARRIS COUNTY GA--, Hamilton GA

Queen Anne Cottage, Circa 1870, Warrenton

Warrenton Downtown Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

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Filed under --WARREN COUNTY GA--, Warrenton GA

Helen, Georgia

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.

 

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Filed under --WHITE COUNTY GA--, Helen GA

Martin House, Circa 1876, Sautee-Nacoochee

This was built by the original owner of Nora Mill, John Martin, and was later owned by the Hardman and Ivie families. It once served as a boarding house/hotel and is now home to an antique mall.

Nacoochee Valley Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

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Filed under --WHITE COUNTY GA--, Helen GA, Sautee-Nacoochee GA

Nora Mill, Circa 1876, Sautee-Nacoochee

Built in 1876 by John Martin, a gold miner who decided to stay in the valley, Nora Mill got is present name when purchased by Dr. Lamartine Hardman around 1903. He christened it Nora Mill to honor the memory of his sister.

Instead of the typical water wheel usually associated with milling, Nora Mill utilizes a turbine, fed by a raceway, and gravity, to grind the grain. The 1500-lb. French Burr millstones have been turning out product for nearly 150 years.

In the early 1980s retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Ron Fain leased the mill from the Hardman family and thereafter revived it. His family continues to operate it to this day. The third and fourth generation of the family (Joann Fain Tarpley and husband Rich) run it today.

Tommy Martin has been the manager for many years and is glad to talk about the process and the history of the mill with visitors. His enthusiasm for the place certainly makes you want to return again and again. He told me that the corn meal is popular far and wide, and that Shaquille O’Neal had recently placed a large order for his new restaurant in Los Angeles.

Nacoochee Valley Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

 

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Filed under --WHITE COUNTY GA--, Helen GA, Sautee-Nacoochee GA

Nacoochee Depot, Circa 1913, White County

Though it has been moved and reduced in size, this depot is an important survivor of the Gainesville & Northwestern Railroad.

Nacoochee Valley Historic District,  National Register of Historic Places

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Filed under --WHITE COUNTY GA--, Helen GA, Sautee-Nacoochee GA

Nacoochee Mound, White County

This gazebo-topped mound at the edge of the Nacoochee Valley near Helen is one of the most iconic and most-photographed locations in Georgia. But much of what you know about it may not be true. For starters, it isn’t the original mound, but a reconstruction completed after an archaeological excavation. There were at least a dozen such mounds in the Nacoochee Valley at one time, but as the land was converted to agricultural use, all but this one were destroyed. Traditionally, it was believed that this was a relic of the Cherokee, and a Georgia historical marker at the site still makes this case, but research now invalidates this. The confusion can likely be attributed to the long held myth of star-crossed lovers Sautee, a Chickasaw warrior, and Nacoochee, a Cherokee chieftain’s daughter. Supposedly, they fell in love after a chance meeting and sought refuge on adjacent Mt. Yonah. When Nacoochee’s father became aware of the relationship, he ordered Sautee thrown from the mountaintop while his terrified daughter was forced to watch. She then jumped to her death and locked hands with the dying Sautee at the bottom of the mountain. The legend maintained that they were buried together in the mound.  Great story, but almost certainly a myth. Instead it is believed to have been used by a South Appalachian Mississippian tribe, between 800-1600 AD/CE.

If you’ve seen the mound, you might be surprised to learn that it’s nearly 40 feet in height. The average visitor sees it from the roadside and because it sits in the valley, it doesn’t seem that tall. The beautiful gazebo was placed atop the mound by James Hall Nichols after he purchased the property, probably circa 1870. And while a gazebo doesn’t belong on a burial site of this nature, Nichols’s interest in its proximity to the house he was building and the view it afforded likely saved it from the fate of the other mounds in the Nacoochee Valley. A 1915 excavation revealed that there were 75 burials in the mound, confirming the connection to the Mississippian culture. It’s also referred to at the Sautee-Nacoochee Mound.

Nacoochee Valley Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

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Filed under --WHITE COUNTY GA--, Helen GA, Sautee-Nacoochee GA