One hundred years ago, Gainesville was bragging that it had almost 5 miles of paved streets. That was in 1916 when Hall County had few if any paved roads.
Today, Gainesville has 141 miles of paved streets and none unpaved. There is one unpaved alley on private property.
Hall County has 1,001 paved roads today with 56 unpaved, but the county is whittling away steadily at the unpaved list.
In the early 1900s, actually throughout history, people have complained about road conditions. In the horse-and-buggy days, rain was a problem for dirt roads that people had to use to get where they wanted to go. When the automobile arrived, the demand for improved roads grew, leading to more paving and more roads.
For many years, lawbreakers were fined or could work on the roads to pay off the fine. In Gainesville, able-bodied men between the ages of 21 to 50 were required to work on the streets six days a year. Or they could get out of it by paying the city $3.
Gainesville’s square and streets leading into it were paved with 840,000 bricks in 1909.
Hall County in those early days built quite a few roads, but maintenance was a problem. Some lacked much upkeep at all and were barely passable at times. That prompted the Gainesville News at one point to complain there were too many roads and demanded the county build no more until existing ones could be properly maintained.
Here are some more historical trivia about streets and roads in the area:
When H.W. Morgan was appointed head of the 9th District highway department in 1919, he had five assistants to help him. The State Highway Department was launched in 1918. In 1920, Georgia listed 4,800 “improved roads.” State-aided main roads running through Hall County at that time were the one from Athens to Gainesville, and from Cornelia to Gwinnett County.
Today the state Department of Transportation has 400 employees covering 21 counties in Northeast Georgia.
Boulevard and Candler Street in Gainesville were paved in 1920 with property owners sharing the costs with the city. Property owners along new streets were assessed costs according to front footage. Boulevard is a several-blocks street that parallels Green Street and runs from Candler Street through Brenau University campus to Spring Street. It originally was called Race Street because it is relatively level and straight, and numerous races were run along it. A short version of Race Street today runs from Spring Street to Jesse Jewell Parkway.
Georgia Avenue in the Gainesville Mill area was officially named in March 1903. The textile mill was just beginning to operate.
Gainesville’s first sewer line was laid from Athens Street to Brenau in September 1904. Another 4 miles would be completed by the end of the year, and further expansion during the summer of 1904. Businesses, the courthouse, jail, city hall, hotels and schools would be served first.
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Additional historical trivia:
The first night baseball game played at Gainesville’s City Park was April 15, 1949, when Gainesville High School beat Russell 6-1. GHS’s Jack Roberts, who recently died and is in the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, pitched a two-hitter.
The Jackson Building, an office building on Washington Street in downtown Gainesville named for its builder, Felix Jackson, almost was named the Chamber of Commerce Building because it was the first office to open in the building.
The Hudson House was the predecessor of Princeton Hotel at corner of Main and Washington streets in downtown Gainesville. Now the home of Dress Up!, the building was built by T.P. Hudson in 1886; he died in 1918.
Evelyn Kephart, Gainesvillian who died last week at age 99, saw a lot of history as a lifelong resident of Hall County. She and her husband Dewey were co-owners with Hubert Deaton of Davis-Washington Lumber Co., which operated for nearly three-quarters of a century in Gainesville.
W.H. Davis and Henry Washington were original owners when the company started in 1919 at the intersection of Gainesville Midland and Southern railroads. Davis-Washington succeeded Hunt Planing Mill and moved to 402 South Maple St.
Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times.