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Johnny Vardeman: Old Post Office still standing today in downtown Gainesville
A view of the old Gainesville post office from the early 20th century. - photo by Photo courtesy of John S. Rogers

There’s a lot of history in this old photograph submitted by John S. Rogers of Gainesville.

In the foreground is the old Post Office at the corner of Washington and Green streets in downtown Gainesville. Look closely on the corner, and you can see the statue of Col. C.C. Sanders, a Confederate officer during the Civil War.

The statue, including a fountain, was erected in 1910, two years after Sanders died. It was built at the behest of Helen Longstreet, widow of Gen. James Longstreet, another Confederate officer.

Col. Sanders’ statue was the only Confederate memorial standing on federal property. It had been a project of the local chapter of the Children of the Confederacy. Supporters once wanted the statue in the middle of the downtown square, where the existing “Old Joe” Confederate statue stands. But a controversy at the time between Gainesville and Hall County, which controls the square property itself, caused the location to change.

While Mrs. Longstreet is credited with the Children of the Confederacy for having the Sanders statue built, none was built of her husband, Gen. Longstreet, until recent years by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. That statue stands at the site of the Longstreets’ former home off Park Hill Drive at Longstreet Place.

Mrs. Longstreet was postmaster from 1904-13 and was instrumental in having the Post Office built, replacing a dilapidated building that previously housed it. The tornado of 1936 barely fazed the Post Office, but blew an automobile into the statue, breaking it apart. Part of it ended up on the steps of the First Baptist Church, the columned building seen in this photo across the street. Parts of the statue now remain at the Northeast Georgia History Center at Brenau University.

The Post Office temporarily moved in 1934-36 to the old Hosch Brothers building while it underwent renovation. It remained at Washington and Green streets until April 22, 1967, when it moved to North Green Street, its present location.

The old Post Office building became part of an expanded Federal Building whose entrance is a block over on Spring Street. The addition included a federal courthouse.

The First Baptist Church, as seen in the photo, was built in 1909 at a cost of about $75,000. A spectacular fire pretty much destroyed the church complex in 1960, and members met for two years at Brenau College.

In the meantime, the church had acquired acreage on North Green Street and built the present building in 1962.

Note in the photo, residences still stood around the old Post Office and First Baptist Church. To the right of the old Post Office, the Jackson Building would be built in 1916. That five-story office building still stands.

The church site is now occupied by an office building that once housed First National Bank, which later became Regions Bank. Regions vacated the building and moved to a smaller location across the street and maintains branches in other locations in Hall County and North Georgia.

Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times.