There have been so many changes among Gainesville’s business districts over the years, you can’t keep track of them.
Especially grocery stores. Who remembers what grocery store was where Peach State Bank and Trust is today on West Washington Street? A&P, of course. Dixie Tire occupied the former grocery store building before the bank built its building.
At the other end of Washington near what is now Brenau University was Kroger. And what grocery store was where Turner-Wood & Smith insurance agency is today on Brenau Avenue? Colonial Stores, then Big Star — or was it the other way around?
Here are some more trivia questions from way back when. Answers below.
1. Name some other groceries in the immediate vicinity of Gainesville’s downtown square in the 1950s.
2. What was the name of the sandwich shop in the unusually shaped building at the corner of Maple and West Washington? It was a popular place in the 1940s for students from Gainesville High School, which was then across the street.
3. What other businesses have been located in that building over the years?
4. What large-scale real estate company and insurance agency once occupied only two offices in the Jackson Building?
5. What was the name of the small café in the vicinity of Brenau College and Grace Episcopal Church that also had a branch at the Gainesville airport?
6. What was the name of the taxi company on West Washington Street just off the Gainesville downtown square?
7. Where was Georgia State Patrol Post 6 located before it moved across Longstreet Bridge on U.S. 129 north of Gainesville?
8. What was the location of American Legion Post 7 before it moved to the end of Riverside Drive?
1. Bee Hive Market, 200 N. Bradford; Piggly Wiggly, 228 S. Bradford; Red Grocery, 334 S. Bradford. Others farther out were Cochran’s on Thompson Bridge Road and Green’s, still in operation on Ronnie Green Parkway, formerly Riverside Drive.
3. Ward’s Funeral Home, the Gainesville Daily Times, WLBA radio station, Sears catalog sales office. Drew Blakely Whitmire soon will open her Urbane Hair Artistry there.
4. W.L. Norton Agency Inc.
5. The Cookie Jar and Flying Cookie Jar.
6. Black and White Cab. Co.
7. What was then called Athens Road near the intersection of Ridge Road.
8. Atlanta Road near what was then Chemell’s Hatchery, Pepsi-Cola Bottling and Bulldog Service Station.
• • •
Harold Westbrook fondly recalls, as do many others, Uncle Jack’s News Stand at the Wheeler Hotel, Bagwell’s Barn on Athens Street, and when on East Washington Street you could still see a 3-foot-wide section of patched pavement where the street car tracks had been years before. Pirkle’s Café on South Main Street where Big Bear Café is today was a popular stop after watching trains coming and going at what used to be the Southern Railroad Depot.
The Wheeler Hotel was where Hall County Library is today in downtown Gainesville. Other downtown hotels included the Arlington, which preceded the Dixie-Hunt, now Hunt Towers at the corner of Spring and Main; the Hudson, which preceded the Princeton, now the site of Dress Up! at the corner of Washington and Main streets. For many years those hotels would fill with traveling salespeople, in addition to poultry people as Hall County grew into what became known as the Broiler Capital of the World.
Downtown Gainesville seems to thrive now after coming back from an era when shopping centers drew shoppers away from the central business district. Many years ago, when Southern Railway first chugged into Hall County, it was feared then that downtown would die. The town was divided between those who wanted the railroad depot to locate near downtown and those who preferred the present location on what was then called Railroad Avenue, now Industrial Boulevard.
Property owners in or near downtown wanted more for their land for railroad right-of-way than the railroad was willing to pay. Thus, a cluster of businesses developed across the street from the depot.
A couple of hotels, too, including the Piedmont, once operated by Confederate Gen. James Longstreet. Hired horses-and-buggies as well as a horse-drawn street car ran from the depot to the “real” downtown.
Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times.