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Column: Brenau neighborhood rose from the woods
Johnny Vardeman

Sherwood Heights, a popular residential area off South Enota Drive in Gainesville, was once primarily woodlands used by Brenau College students to hike, ride horses or boat on a lake.

Today that area is filled with homes, and the lake — known originally as Pearce Lake and more recently Brenau Lake — is dry.

Either Brenau or the family of the school’s early president, Hayward Pearce, owned much of the acreage. Attorney Joe Telford and H.W. “Washie” Wallis, a builder, acquired the property and started development in the early 1960s before selling it to other builders and developers.

Larry and Jackie Pardue are longtime residents of Sherwood Heights, and their house was the third one built on Takeda Drive in 1964.

Pearce built the 12-acre lake because he wanted a place for him and his friends to fish, Pardue said he was told. He would charge others $5 to fish.

Brenau students into the 1950s would hike through the woods to enjoy the lake. The school had a rowing team at one point. 

There was no Sherwood Plaza shopping center or other nearby developments then. Students and townspeople would refer to the lake as “Big Brenau Lake” because there was another small lake on the Brenau campus called “Little Brenau Lake.” 

Actually, its name was Lake Lanier at least into the 1920s, long before today’s Lake Lanier was formed in the mid-1950s. Both were named after the famous poet, Sidney Lanier. Brenau’s tennis complex off Prior and Perry streets was the site of the early Lake Lanier, previously known as Lake Takeda.

The Takeda name comes from a Brenau student from Tokyo, Japan, Amy Takeda, whose father was a member of the Japanese Diet (parliament) and a friend of Pearce. She was a student from 1910-1914.

Another street in Sherwood Heights, Crudup Drive, is named for the late Josiah Crudup, a longtime president of the college. Lucille Lane is probably named for Pearce’s daughter.

Other streets in the residential area follow the Sherwood Forest theme: Robinhood Trail, Nottingham Drive and Little John Circle.

Brenau Lake in Sherwood Heights was a popular amenity for the residential area, especially those who lived on Crudup Drive, adjacent to the lake. A controversy erupted in 1993 when the state declared the lake unsafe because of a leak in the dam. Residents urged the state to repair the dam to no avail. 

They also tried to form a private group to make repairs, but it could never be determined exactly who owned the property. Limestone Creek, which was dammed to form the lake, runs through part of Sherwood Heights, but is no longer full from the dam being breached.

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Pearce Lake, later known as Brenau Lake, during winter. The college also had a lake on campus first known as “Lake Lanier,” but commonly called “Little Brenau Lake.” Image courtesy Hall County Library historic photo collection
Camp Takeda

Brenau was host to a summer camp for girls around “Little Brenau Lake” in the 1930s and ‘40s. Many local girls would attend several weeks of canoeing, swimming, horseback riding, tennis, dance, arts and crafts, theater and other activities. A pagoda, or summer house, stood in the middle of the lake. Girls would come from all over the South, and local campers would greet arriving out-of-towners in wagons riding down to the train depot.

Perry Street, adjacent to the Brenau campus, was unpaved at the time. It was formerly known as Sable Place. Park Street was called Park Avenue because it led to what was called Brenau Park. In its early days, the park was about 100 acres and contained a seven-hole golf course.

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; email, or His column publishes weekly.

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