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Green Street Circle recycles a bygone era

POSTED: August 10, 2008 5:01 a.m.

Many people driving along ultra-busy, multilaned Thompson Bridge Road in Gainesville may not be aware only a few yards away is a quiet two-lane, tree-lined street that developed early in the 1900s and today is enjoying somewhat of a renaissance.

Green Street Circle residents no doubt are content their tight-knit neighborhood remains semi-secret because it harkens back to a slower time when people sat on their front porches and chatted with neighbors walking by.

"It's like going back in time," says Shannon Ball, whose family has lived there 11 years and is in its third house on the street. The Balls moved from Gainesville, only to return later to the street of their dreams. They are typical of several families who have upgraded some of the older houses to make the street even more desirable.

It's historic, too. During Gainesville's resort era in the late 1800s and early 1900s, Gower Springs Hotel sat atop a hill overlooking a narrow dirt Thompson Bridge Road. The resort, which included much of what is now Green Street Circle, included a dance hall, skating rink and bowling alley. A street car ran from town to the resort.

An 1888 brochure promoting Gainesville as a health resort, boasted that minerals in Gower Springs were good for "... all kidney troubles, indigestion, hemorrhoids, and in all cases requiring a tonic ..." P.B. Holtzendorf was its proprietor.

Architect Frank Moorefield mapped out Green Street Circle in 1918, though some houses probably were built earlier. Prominent families have been among residents, including the Charles Martins, Clarence Harrisons, Ed Kimbroughs, Pinckney Whelchels, McKibbons, Platts, Jewells, Loudermilks, Burns, Henry Washingtons, Dunlaps, Hosches, Chambers, Springles, Bloodworths, McCrarys, Whiteheads, Valentines, Parks, Davises, Brices, Telfords, Stows and others. First Baptist Church's parsonage also was on the street for a time.

Eddie Chambers remembers some of the houses being built as he grew up on the street. His father built their house.

Dora Kimbrough Jenkins recalls as a child games of Red Rover in the street with only an occasional car interrupting them. Her mother lived in the family home there from 1928 until her death in 1980.

Lucille McCrary Bagwell reminisces about being doused with a water gun by neighbor Mike Harrison as she walked up and down the street selling Girl Scout cookies or whatever in the 1940s and '50s.

"Life was really nice," she said. "It was beautiful; there was no crime; nobody locked their doors." She can still list who lived in what house up and down the street.

Children would ride bicycles to school, walk to Green Street swimming pool and to City Park for football games. Lucille and Alice Whitehead Paris, having heard about an early-morning Polar Bear Club, went to the pool before it opened one morning only to be run off by Gainesville Coach Brownie Fluornoy and the football team.

"People know everybody on the street," Shannon Ball says. As in the past, they walk to football games after neighborhood tailgate parties. Halloween is a huge tradition on the street, with the dozens of children living there being joined by scores more from nearby.

Residents are most protective of their neighborhood. Their association has resisted rezonings that threaten the area's character, and people worry that developers might want to destroy the tree cover that distinguishes the street from others that have fallen victim to chain saws. Some hope Green Street Circle can be designated a neighborhood conservation area.

Commercial development has crept onto either end of the street. The Green Street end closed to traffic after a redesign of the intersection of Thompson Bridge Road and Riverside Drive. Offices fill former residences there and at the end of the circle that flows into Thompson Bridge Road.

But Green Street Circle for the most part remains intact with yet another generation enjoying the pleasures of living on a peaceful shady street that has the look and feel of those their parents or grandparents tell about when they were growing up.

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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