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5 Questions for M. Garland Reynolds Jr.

POSTED: March 11, 2012 11:30 p.m.
SARA GUEVARA/The Times

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Architect M. Garland Reynolds has designed countless building in Hall County and beyond. His zest to make the buildings he designs be compatible with the history of the area has led him to become something of an expert on regional history and a collector of great stories about this region.

Today, The Times asks Reynolds five questions about his passions — for architecture and for history.

 

1. What do you think is the most interesting building in Hall County?

I have two. The first is Head's (aka, Healan's) Mill located on Whitehall Road in East Hall County. This historic grist mill, dating back to 1845, is among the most beautiful in America. It is recognized as such by the Society for the Preservation of Old Mills in America and is prominently featured as such in the book "Historic Mills of America."

Poised above the rapids of the North Oconee River with its great iron water wheel, it is a lovely sight to behold and a favorite for artists. Supporting its elevated flume are steel rails believed to have been taken from the old Gainesville trolley line and from the Northwestern Railroad that once ran steamed from New Holland to Helen. Head's Mill is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Hall County purchased the mill and surrounding property with a grant in 2003. A group wanting to preserve the mill was then able to raise enough money to stabilize the structure and store the milling equipment for a possible later restoration. Since that time nothing has happened and time is taking its toll. What a lovely park and county educational resource this could become!

The second is the 1938 Hall County courthouse located in downtown Gainesville. This historic architectural landmark art deco building in white and pink Georgia marble was for many years recognized by most as the most beautiful building in Gainesville. It, too, is on the National Register of Historic Places. Sadly, in 1972, the present annex "box structure" was constructed against the courthouse's splendid Spring Street north side, completely blocking any view of it from the Downtown Square.

Hopefully, these unfortunate circumstances of the past can soon be remedied and this grand historic building can once again be brought back to its former glory and serving a useful purpose in downtown Gainesville.

 

2. What historical story about Hall County do you think every resident should know?

The most historic story about Hall County occurred on the morning of April 6, 1936, when, without any warning, a devastating F-4 tornado slammed into downtown Gainesville.

The Cooper Pants Factory, located on Broad Street between Maple Street and the Midland Railroad, was then the scene of the most tragic loss of life in U.S. history from a fire caused by a tornado. Women, mostly poor young county girls, worked in the upstairs sewing room. ... Numbers vary because of missing records, but it is generally accepted that between 75 and 125 died there as they clutched together in pitiful groups. I recall my father, who worked in a nearby butcher shop, telling about hearing the screams of the women as they were cremated alive.

For whatever reason, no official recognition of this horrific event has ever been properly acknowledged by the city of Gainesville. Thankfully, there now exists an opportunity to rectify this oversight. By a stroke of providence, the city now owns the block of property where the pants factory was located. Moreover, it is in the best possible location for a Central Park that would link and extend the restricted Downtown Square south down to the new Midtown Greenway that begins directly across Jesse Jewell Parkway from the park. Besides providing a much needed downtown green space, a beautiful open pavilion for community events could be erected over the site of the factory building as a memorial to the women who perished there.

 

3. Describe your own house and what you like about it architecturally.

Our house in Longstreet Hills was designed by the noted Atlanta architect John Cherry and constructed in 1954.

We purchased the house in 1997 and began an extensive and lengthy remodeling. Architecturally, the house plan is "S" shaped with brick floors, brick walls, heavy fanned-out wood beams, much glass and only a few straight walls. As we proceeded with changes, things came together and the house has proven to be a most comfortable home. We have been told that neighbors sometimes call it "The Museum House!"

As a bonus, the house is situated on almost 2 forested acres that are home to every known species of bird in Georgia, a family of raccoons, an occasional herd of deer and once a wandering coyote. The only problem now is a large family of squirrels that has taken up residence in the trees and last summer ate every tomato in our vegetable garden. I didn't know squirrels ate tomatoes!

 

4. Of the buildings you've designed, what's your favorite and why?

One favorite building is impossible to name.

It could be the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Savannah; or Chateau Elan; or The Lakewood Marta Station; or the Southeastern Indian Museum at Reinhardt University; or The Tallulah Gorge Interpretive Center; or The Stamp Mill Program Center at Camp Glisson in Dahlonega; or one of the churches; or the Flowery Branch Depot; or the Byron Herbert Reece Interpretive Center in Union County or another. All are favorites and all have their stories.

I will admit, however, that The Hike-Inn Lodge at Amicalola State Park is a special favorite with a unique story. This remote state park and historic site facility was constructed on the top east side of a mountain on the access trail leading up to join with the beginning of the Appalachian Trail on Springer Mountain. ... Designing it involved a lot of research including walking through the White Mountains of New Hampshire where I learned how not to construct self-composting toilets and how to ventilate rooms to prevent moisture coming from perspiring arriving hikers from collecting on ceilings and raining down.

It was not a consideration in the design, but the Hike-Inn went on to be awarded a coveted Gold LEED environmental certification.

 

5. How do you think Gainesville and Hall County will change in the next 50 years?

Gainesville and Hall County will change in the next 50 years to become a regional intermodal transportation center.

Where else within a mile of each other is there a major U.S. railroad connecting up-east cities like Washington, D.C., and New York with Atlanta and New Orleans and before long the route for both commuter and fast rail, a splendid expandable airport capable even now of accommodating large jet aircraft and an Interstate highway?

From its historic beginning at the intersection of two Indian ridge trails, Gainesville has been the North Georgia hub for busy roads extending out in every direction.

Change to accommodate this inherited bounty is certain.

 



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