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What visitors to Gainesville saw in 1908

POSTED: July 19, 2009 1:00 a.m.

A visitor to Gainesville in 1908 wrote about what he liked about the city.

"On a warm day when you turn a faucet to obtain a draught of water to quench your thirst, you are glad to think that the life-giving liquid is from a spring that furnishes the water supply for the whole city," he wrote.

He also was fascinated by the transportation system, noting that a trolley car pulled freight cars from the Southern Railway depot in south Gainesville to the downtown area to be unloaded. Downtown also was the terminus of the Gainesville Midland Railroad and was until the 1950s. That depot at the end of West Spring Street serves today as the venue for The Arts Council.

"Gainesville never fails to have peaches in peach season," the writer said. And while peach crops vary with the weather, orchards in eastern Hall County continue to produce today with peaches approaching their peak about this time of year.

While Buford Dam and Lake Lanier attract today's visitors, the 1908 writer praised Lake Warner, which was backed up by Dunlap Dam on the Chattahoochee River. The lake could be reached by trolley at the end of Riverside Drive at what was called Chattahoochee Park, now the location of American Legion Post 7.

The writer described the lake: "There is a dam 35 feet high across the river, which makes it eddy and backs it up to the sides of the lower foothills of the little mountains whose bases are hidden from sight by the beautiful waters of Lake Warner ... There is a great bend in Lake Warner, and the land within the bend is like a little mountain. On top of the highest point is built a tower for observation, not of the stars, but of the winding lake itself and the little boats, electric launches and row boats, as they sail by the tower on one side and around the tower on the other side and then between the hills on both sides, far up the river and out of sight ... Chattahoochee Park surely is the most picturesque park in all Georgia."

He commented on about 400 University of Georgia cadets at an annual camp at Chattahoochee Park and about nearby Riverside Academy. The writer noted that Gainesville would soon pave its public square, and a marble Post Office would be going up at the corner of Green and Washington streets across from First Baptist Church, which was under construction.

The visitor listed three hotels at the time, Arlington, Central and Mountain View, a public school system, a new business school, three "live" newspapers, the News, Herald and Eagle, and four banks. He also mentioned the Richardson Brothers band, "who have traveled over the state and into almost every town within its borders, dispensing the strains of sweetest music with their band.

"So you see Gainesville has the right appellation because without doubt it deserves its name: The Queen City of the Mountains."

• • •

Several hundred people attended the cornerstone-laying ceremonies of Lyman Hall School in May 1936, just a month after a tornado heavily damaged Gainesville. The storm caused a crack in the building, which was under construction at Tate Street and Westside Drive between Atlanta Highway and Browns Bridge Road.

Robert McMillan, Northeastern court solicitor general and deputy grand marshal of Masons, and Mason R. Wilson Smith presided at the cornerstone ceremony. The Chicopee Band performed.

The building was finished in time for the 1936-37 school year starting Sept. 7. Frank Watson was the superintendent, and others on the staff were Cleburne Driskell, principal and coach, and teachers Loyce Spealman, Georgia Rudolph, Caroline Smith, Marie Williams and Velma Wayne.

The school cost $35,000, part of which came from federal Works Progress Administration funds.

Fire destroyed most of the building on March 20, 1971. The cornerstone that was laid in 1936 went missing after the fire and never has been recovered.

A new Lyman Hall School opened in 1973 on Memorial Park Road.

Those who attended the old school are planning their fifth reunion 4-8 p.m. Aug. 15 at First Baptist Church's banquet hall on Green Street. Pat Rail at 770-536-5189 is the contact for information. And she'd be happy to hear from anybody who has clues to the lost cornerstone.

Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times and can be reached at 2183 Pinetree Circle N.E., Gainesville, GA 30501. His column appears Sundays and on gainesvilletimes.com.



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