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Column: A deep dive into Cresswind at Lake Lanier's history
Johnny_Vardeman
Johnny Vardeman

It started out as just a history of the Cresswind at Lake Lanier community off Browns Bridge Road in Hall County.

That’s a story in itself — one of ups and downs of what was to be Seasons on Lanier that dates back to 1972, when Sanford Orkin bought property on both sides of Browns Bridge Road. It would be 33 more years before Levitt and Sons bought the property to develop a large residential community, but it went bankrupt in 2007. Kolter Homes bought much of the property from Wachovia Bank in 2013. The Seasons on Lake Lanier name changed to Cresswind, which now is home to 940 homes plus a massive clubhouse, pools and other amenities.

Cresswind’s heritage committee wanted to research the history of the residential development, and Ron Stowe, a member, suggested they go back as far as they could into the history of the land itself. He found that the backstory of the land involved many of the prominent families in Hall County’s past, including the Stringers, Iveys, O’Dells, Goulds and Mooneys.

Stowe, a retired Delta Airlines pilot, researched back to the 1820 land lotteries that parceled out 250-acre chunks of land in Georgia. He has spent hours in the Hall County land deeds room.

Among the landowners where Cresswind sits today was the Rev. A.M. “Mr. Zandy” Stringer, a state senator from 1868-1870, who sold the first property to Pleasant Hill Baptist Church just down the road. The Stringer descendants owned property on both sides of Browns Bridge Road through the 1960s, Stowe discovered. Sanford Orkin of the Orkin pest control empire bought 358 acres, then three decades later sold it to Levitt and Sons, which went into bankruptcy, and Kolter Homes acquired the property.

Balous Ivey, a Forsyth County native, bought 55 acres of the property in 1920. His name remains on roads in the development — Ivey Road and Mill, which was once Balous Ivey and Balous Mill roads.

Three daughters of Sampson and Ester Mooney married members of the Gould and Stringer families. Descendants owned some of the property that Orkin eventually purchased. Charles and Glenn Stringer had inherited the land from Annie Ester Mooney and Hiram Stringer. Glenn Stringer was a longtime employee of Frierson-McEver Co., a former landmark men’s clothing store on Gainesville’s downtown square.

Daniel M. Stringer, brother of the Rev. Stringer, built the Stringer Opera House at the corner of Washington and Bradford streets in downtown Gainesville. Jim Hunt later bought the building and continued it as the Hunt Opera House before it burned in 1925.

Stowe wrote that the Cresswind property is only a portion of land that had been owned by the Stringer, Ivey, Mooney and Gould families. “Their land extended south to the area of Flat Creek, which is located behind the present-day Free Chapel Worship Center on McEver Road,” he said.

The heritage committee’s history even includes a piece about “Otto the Rat Man,” Otto Orkin, father of Sanford Orkin, who sold property that became Cresswind and also owned property that became part of Royal Lakes between Winder Highway and Poplar Springs Road and land that became part of Don Carter State Park off Clark’s Bridge Road.

In an epilogue to the committee’s history, Stowe wrote of some of his reflections after delving into the history of the land around where he lives:

“Whenever I drive through Cresswind, I visualize Balous Ivey in his overalls working a field of peanuts with his mule-drawn plow and wonder about the exact location of the Ivey homeplace.

“When I drive onto Montgomery Drive, I see 5-year-old Mildred O’Dell standing on the porch of her Grandmother Carrie’s farmhouse after her father died in a car wreck in 1929.

“Whenever I pass by the Cadillac dealership on Browns Bridge Road, I see the old Stringer homeplace with a little garden by the family cemetery.

“When I’m sitting at Atlas Pizza on the Gainesville square, I see lines of people waiting to pay a dime to see a performance at the Stringer Opera House that was built in 1885 by the Rev. Stringer’s brother, Daniel M. Stringer.”


Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times. He can be reached at 2183 Pine Tree Circle NE, Gainesville, GA 30501; 770-532-2326; or johnnyvardeman@gmail.com. His column publishes weekly.