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Johnny Vardeman: Before there was Lake Lanier, there was Lanier Lake
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Did you know there was a Lanier Lake in Hall County before our present Lake Lanier filled in the mid-1950s?

It was a drop in the bucket compared to today’s lake, but nevertheless Lanier Lake was on the map behind the main Brenau College campus off today’s Perry Street. The lake in what was called Brenau Park later became known as “Little Brenau Lake,” and was the site of Camp Takeda, where young girls from Hall County and beyond would gather every summer back in the day.

The “Lanier Lake” name shows up on the 1930 Sanborn fire insurance map of Gainesville. Those maps were used to evaluate risks of properties for fire insurance purposes.

The 1903 map showed Gainesville Fire Department had four paid firefighters on duty seven days a week 24 hours a day, as well four horses and 25 volunteers. It had a hand service truck, two hose wagons, 2,000 feet of hose and a ladder wagon. The fire alarm was a bell atop the courthouse in the block bounded by Broad, Green, Bradford and Spring streets.

Streets off the main square remained undeveloped except for the increasing number of residences. Brenau College at that time consisted of two main buildings, Yonah Hall and Pearce Auditorium, both of which provided student housing, a library, classrooms and a dining hall. Where Gainesville High School would be built on West Washington Street in the early 1920s stood the sprawling Looper’s Wagon Yard.

The maps that came out in 1930 showed how Gainesville had expanded in many ways. Residential areas had spread from just off the square up Green Street and other northern areas. Numerous homes had been built all over the south side of the city. The city population by then was 8,600 with another 4,000 in Gainesville Mill and New Holland.

The fire department had grown to six paid men, including the chief, all of whom lived in the fire station. Equipment included a motor truck with pump, a Dodge truck with 30 feet of ladders, thousands of feet of hose and an alarm atop City Hall at Broad and Main streets.

The Jackson Building had been erected on Washington Street, and the Post Office at the corner of Washington and Green, which is part of the Federal Building today. The Chamber of Commerce was in a house behind the Jackson Building. There was even a miniature golf course at the corner of Washington and Green.

First Baptist Church was across the street from the Post Office, First Presbyterian Church was at the corner of Green and Brenau Avenue, and First Methodist at the corner of Green and Academy, the twin-towered building that still stands.

Hotels in 1930 included the Princeton at the corner of Washington and Main, the Wheeler on Main where Hall County Library is today, the Dixie-Hunt at the corner of Spring and Main, and the Mountain View on Washington across from then-Gainesville High School, now Gym of ’36.

While plenty of automobiles rode the streets, there remained Bagwell’s buggy-and-wagon-making business, a livery stable or two and a hay and feed lot. Alex Leathers’ Grist Mill still operated on South Bradford Street.

Brenau College by 1930 had expanded to several buildings, including dormitories and sorority houses. The old high school at the end of College Avenue was now Main Street elementary school. Northwestern Normal School for black children was off Mill Street at McDonald Street. Riverside Military Academy was fully developed and thriving.

The country club and its adjacent golf course were where American Legion Post 7 is today at the end of Riverside Drive. Green Street Circle was becoming a prime residential area off Green Street though at the time many lots remained vacant.

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The Sanborn fire maps not only illustrate the development in a city over time, but also reveal other changes, especially in names of places and streets.

For example, Forrest Avenue between Green and Bradford used to be Gower Street. What is now Riverside Drive, Ronnie Green Parkway, Morningside Drive and Park Hill Drive once was called Cleveland Road. Park Hill Drive where it branches off Ronnie Green Parkway at City Park once was Elbert Street.

Ridgewood Avenue, which today runs from Green Street to Wilshire Road, was Rice Street at the time.

Some streets, or at least their names, have disappeared from maps. They include Sable Place off then-Park Avenue, now Park Street; Orpheum off North Green Street at the Civic Center; and Grape Street off Green Street, what is now Holly Drive and Piedmont Avenue.

Others that no longer exist include Sagimore Street, Solonge, Able, Culbert, Daphne Place, Elk Place, Mohigan Place, Neffe Road, Standish Place, Wausau Place and Saugatier Road. Some of these apparently were temporary unofficial names.

Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times.