Gainesville’s Chamber of Commerce had some ambitious goals in 1931 despite the nation heading into what became known as the Great Depression.
Curiously, No. 1 was development of a curb market, which was accomplished just off the downtown square, later moving to the Church Street area across what is now Jesse Jewell Parkway. One of the motives was to get what were called “produce peddlers” off the downtown square itself. Today, farmers markets operate in several locations around the county, including Fridays on the Gainesville square and Tuesdays and Saturdays on Jesse Jewell Parkway at Crescent Drive.
The 1931 chamber’s No. 2 objective was completion of paving on the Appalachian and Piedmont highways, which led into Gainesville from the mountains and from Atlanta and South Carolina. They were completed eventually, of course, and have been either improved or replaced by other routes. A third goal was grading and hard-surfacing the highway to Tate through Dawsonville
A new Federal Building also was on the agenda of the chamber. It was already in the planning stages, was built and still stands at the corner of Spring and Green. The Washington Street side was used as a post office until it moved to Green Street.
The chamber supported the creation of a forestry school on the Glades property, and the University of Georgia did operate there for several years. A reservoir is in the works there now.
While the chamber campaigned for a community building, it wouldn’t be until after World War II that the present Civic Center was completed. It also called for expanding Gainesville High School and the water system.
Gainesville had a landing field, more or less, but the chamber asked for a real municipal airport. It got one that the federal government took over during World War II for a naval air auxiliary facility. The city took it back over after the war and developed it in stages into what is Lee Gilmer Memorial Airport today.
Some residents joined the chamber in seeking an underpass at the railroad depot on what is now Industrial Boulevard, formerly Railroad Avenue. They wanted to eliminate at-grade railroad crossings, especially traffic toward Gainesville Mill, but such an underpass never came to pass.
One of the chamber objectives was to build a new courthouse. Considerable opposition developed against this proposal, but the tornado of 1936 severely damaged the existing courthouse, necessitating implementation of the new courthouse plans, but with federal assistance.
Besides those specific objectives, the chamber had more general goals, such as encouraging people to shop at home, expanding the trade area and improving farming techniques. It also wanted to enhance Hall County’s reputation as a tourist destination. The area had been known as a health resort for many years, and the improved highways and more automobiles riding them opened up the mountains and other nearby locations to more tourists.
Gainesville had become a popular spot for conventions with ample lodging and dining. It had been host for national gatherings, including the National Editorial Association, which gave the area considerable favorable publicity. The city seemed to attract gatherings of state organizations regularly in those days.
Most of the 1931 chamber’s goals were achieved in face of difficult times.
A statue appropriately stands in one of Savannah’s square in tribute to Georgia’s founder, James Oglethorpe. North Georgians, too, thought there should be some memorial to Oglethorpe. Sam Tate of the Tate marble family commissioned a 38-foot marble shaft with a likeness of Oglethorpe and inscriptions around its base. With a delegation of Gainesvillians attending, it was dedicated atop Mount Oglethorpe, formerly Grassy Knob, in Pickens County on Oct. 23, 1930.
Mount Oglethorpe, which was the southern terminus for the Appalachian Trail until 1958 when it was re-designated to Springer Mountain in Dawson County, became so developed access was almost impossible. Therefore, in 1999, the Oglethorpe monument, by now deteriorating from vandalism and weather, was removed and restored to Main Street in downtown Jasper.
Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times and can be reached at 2183 Pinetree Circle NE, Gainesville 30501. His column appears Sundays and at gainesvilletimes.com/johnny.