By the 1920s, Gainesville long had been a trade center, and more automobiles were filling its streets. With more people owning cars, demands for improving roads increased.
Leaders in Hall, Stephens and Habersham counties came together in the early 1930s to push for paving a route through their counties. Some paving had been done, but gaps remained. The road between New Holland and Baldwin and Cornelia and Toccoa at the time was known as the Piedmont Air Line Highway. That entire route eventually was paved as U.S. 23, now known locally as Old Cornelia Highway.
The same counties came together when that curvy two-lane highway became obsolete and campaigned for Interstate 85 to come through or near their counties. The route eventually veered away from Hall, Stephens and Habersham counties, but years later those counties were able to get other four-lane routes including Interstate 985, Ga. 365 and U.S. 123.
Athens Street, now E.E. Butler Parkway, was unpaved late in the 1920s. Citizens appealed to the city commission at the time to pave it from inside the city to the city limits.
“The present condition of Athens Street is a reflection upon the city and certainly some way can be found to provide a hard-surfaced street to connect with ... Jefferson, Gillsville, Maysville ... (otherwise) Gainesville will continue to be ‘cussed’ by our people ... as well as our neighbors and friends,” the Gainesville News complained.
Paving was paramount in those days. Some even wanted to pave over Gainesville’s downtown square. In 1929, a rumor circulated that the Confederate statue would be removed to the courthouse yard to increase parking on the square. At the time, the courthouse was located in a block south of the square.
United Daughters of Confederacy would have no part of it, and it had plenty of allies. The square was the only “park” at the time in or near the business district. Paving over that green space would have provided more parking, but eliminated a park. People at the time longed for more parks, not fewer.
Whatever the rumor, the statue maintained its spot, survived the tornado of 1936 and a few suggestions from time to time to move it, and remains today defiantly facing invaders from the North or others who would have the audacity to try to root it out of its prominent position.
The square itself is in Gainesville, but is owned by Hall County because that’s where the original courthouse stood.
The original Chattahoochee Golf Club organized in 1919 after leading citizens of that era acquired property at the end of Riverside Drive from Georgia Power Co.
The power company had operated Dunlap Dam on the Chattahoochee River, established a park and camp for employees out of what was considered virgin forest as late as 1901.
A home on the property served as the clubhouse for a nine-hole course. The course attracted notable golfers of the day, including famed Bobby Jones, as well as other celebrities and journalists. Its greens were oiled sand rather than grass. The Gainesville News at the time described the course as “one of the sportiest nine-hole golf courses in the South.”
Gen. Sandy Beaver, who had purchased what became Riverside Military Academy adjacent to the golf course, acquired the 100-acre property in 1930. He would let the existing golf club membership use the course, but would operate it as part of the military school. The acquisition of the property increased Riverside’s acreage to 250. About 400 students from almost every state in the nation attended the school at the time.
Beaver hired an architect to convert the clubhouse into his official residence, but the president’s home later was located on Riverside Drive and continues as a private residence today adjacent to the school’s campus.
The golf course later was abandoned, and another nine-hole course built at the end of Woodsmill Road. American Legion Post 7 bought the property at the end of Riverside Drive in 1946, and the old clubhouse served as its home until it burned in 1985. The present Chattahoochee Golf Course off Thompson Bridge Road was built after Lake Lanier inundated the previous one in the 1950s.
Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times and can be reached at 2183 Pinetree Circle NE, Gainesville, GA 30501. His column appears Sundays and at gainesvilletimes.com/johnny.