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Johnny Vardeman: Venerable trees helped tell the story of homes on Green Street
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A fallen tree took down utility lines Sept. 11. 2017, at Brenau Avenue and Green Street in Gainesville. - photo by Scott Rogers

No matter where the trees fell during the recent tropical storm, there was none so serious if it damaged your own property.

However, it was especially sad that some of those old sentinels on Gainesville’s Green Street fell to the winds a couple of weeks ago as they seemed to belong to everybody. The one that fell in front of Quinlan Visual Arts Center changed the face of that landmark, though fortunately it missed the building itself.

Johnny Vardeman

Some of those ancient hardwoods have shaded our way into town for decades.

Green Street began developing as the place to live in the late 1800s. By the turn of the 20th century, it was a real estate hot spot. Prices were modest compared to today. S.C. Dunlap bought 8 acres on Green Street for $3,000 in 1901. His home was described as “palatial.” E.A. Davidson bought Dr. Mark Ham’s place at Green and Spring for $4,000. J.R. Boone sold his Green Street home to B.F. Simmons for $2,400.

Gov. A.D. Candler was among those living on the street, but other prominent families were as well, including the Hosches, Ashfords, Chambers, Adams, Smiths, Johnsons, Charters, Longstreets, Rudolphs, Daniels, Palmours, Mitchells, Jacksons and Dr. R.E. Green, supposed namesake of the street, among many others. Those families planted some of the older trees, although most of those are long gone.

They were witness to the horse-and-buggy days when the clop-clop sounds of hooves slowly accompanied people from their homes to town, and mules and wagons hauled produce from the farms to Gainesville’s downtown square. Perhaps they witnessed the time a horse pulling an ice wagon ran away, the wagon crashing into one of the Green Street homes. Or when Ross McConnell celebrating Christmas 1900 had a small cannon shooting fireworks blow up in his face.

It was a romantic era about the same time when a street railway’s clanging bell announced its arrival on the street enroute to the Chattahoochee River at the end of Riverside Drive.

Weddings were common in those Green Street homes, and it wasn’t unusual for a funeral in the home of a family member. Practically all social events happened in the various homes, including book, study and bridge clubs, Daughters of Confederacy, Daughters of the Revolution and undoubtedly quite a few tea parties and poker games.

Green Street was mostly residential then compared to today when most of the street is filled with offices, a newspaper, bank, part of a college campus and post office. However, in those early days there were some commercial enterprises, including Red Grocery on the south end toward town,  and Mrs. E.C. Chastain’s dress-making place at 67 North Green.

While it was a popular place to live, not everybody wanted to live there. Tom Sutton announced in the fall of 1899 he was moving. After living on Green Street for a long time and trying to acquire a title of “colonel, major or something similar,” he reported to the Georgia Cracker newspaper, he had given up and moved elsewhere. Everybody else on the street had some kind of title, but “fates seemed to be against me,” he said.

After he moved, he did finally assume the title of “Col. Tom Sutton,” awarded by his brothers of the Knights of the Phythias, which elected him Keeper of the Records and Seals, apparently sympathetic to his longtime wish.

Helen Martin, retired Gainesville teacher and longtime local history researcher, is compiling a coffee table book on Green Street homes. Her interest in such a project came during her research on her Uncle John Martin’s home on Green Street.

The book will be more about the architecture of Green Street homes than an actual history, though some of the dates and residents through the years will be covered. Some homeowners have allowed her inside for rare photographs of the original interior features, such as pocket closets, stairways, stained-glass windows and fire places.

She is still trying to answer lingering questions about some of the homes and identify some old photographs before she completes her book, titled “Beyond the Jewels and Grandeur.”

Correction: The date for the founding of Chateau Elan Winery was incorrect in last week’s column. Vineyards were planted in the early 1980s, and the winery officially opened in 1985.

Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times. He can be reached at 2183 Pine Tree Circle NE, Gainesville, GA 30501; phone, 770-532-2326; e-mail His column appears Sundays.

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