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Column: Remembering good times and lamenting the loss of lovers’ lanes
Johnny Vardeman

 Who hasn’t cuddled with their sweetie parked at the end of a dead-end dirt road?

Who hasn’t stolen a smooch from their best girlfriend/boyfriend watching the moonlight ripple upon a secluded cove on Lake Lanier?

Memories of lovers’ lanes are in many of us. Might have been the unpaved roads in Lakeshore Heights in Gainesville before the subdivision developed. Maybe Holly Park or Dunlap’s Landing, where “sparking places” were hard to find on weekend evenings.

Perhaps Peck’s Bridge in north Hall County, Buckhorn Mountain or wooded lanes off Thompson Mill Road off Cleveland Highway, before it was paved and houses built.

Some of those likely are still in use, though development has overgrown many.

Gainesville was a tiny town in the early 1900s. Lovers’ lanes might have been closer to downtown, which had yet to spread much beyond the square.

A favorite might have been a short stretch of unpaved South Green Street, perhaps between Washington and Seminary streets. Seminary is today’s Brenau Avenue. Cars were still rare. Homes were few on that stretch. The Presbyterians, Methodists and Baptists had yet to build their churches there.

Couples more likely would be in buggies pulled by horses, or they would leisurely stroll afoot up the tree-lined lane, women in their lacy, long-flowing dresses and wide-brimmed hats, men in their three-piece suits and derbies or bowlers. Fashion was fairly formal in that Edwardian era.

The street car was just beginning to run from the railroad depot through the square and up Green Street, eventually to the river at the end of Riverside Drive. They had to cut some of the trees to make a way for this new-fangled mode of transportation.

A Gainesville writer in 1902, surely a lover himself or herself, in an almost poetic turn-of-phrase, lamented the “progress” that would eliminate lovers’ favorite lane of that era, as well as the stately trees that lined it:

Is Lover’s Lane No More?

“Lover’s Lane, the erstwhile promenade of those over whom the magic wand of Cupid has gently waved, is no more. It has become a pleasant memory of the past. From a beautiful avenue of shady maples and sighing oaks, it has become a busy thoroughfare of commercial life, where is soon to be heard the swish and swir of the electric car, swinging its heavy load of passengers to and from their work. Progress has decreed that love-sick swain and blushing lassie must seek other dells in which to whisper those soft gentle words which ‘melt upon the lip, and honey-dew the air’.

“And there is sorrow, sincere and deep. For who is it of the native heath that has not trod this path — in recent days or in years agone — and listened to that ‘sweetest story ever told’? If stones and trees and shaded nooks could speak, what a story they could tell. And who of us would not be made to blush?

“And who is it that does not hate to see these beautiful trees go? For years they have been admired by homefolks and strangers alike. Almost perfect and size in symmetry, they formed an avenue that was as pretty as could be. From Dr. Bailey’s corner to Seminary Avenue they spread their flowing branches. And the ‘just and unjust’ shared alike in the enjoyment of their refreshing shade. But progress, like time and tide, waits for no man, and they had to succumb.

“Here’s to their memory!”

So, more than a century ago, there were those who valued the shade of a tree just as many mourn the ever-increasing loss of greenery today — not to mention lovers’ lanes.

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 His column publishes weekly.