The Longstreet Society held a volunteer work day Saturday to clean up the grounds and do minor repairs to the Piedmont Hotel for the society’s 20th anniversary.
For 20 years, tourists and history buffs alike have come to visit what is left of the historic hotel, once owned by Confederate Gen. James Longstreet. The hotel is now home to the Longstreet Society, which aims to preserve and honor the life of the Civil War figure who settled in Gainesville in his later years.
“Being able to talk about Longstreet to others drew me to the society. The members have become my friends through this connection,” said CJ Clarke, current president of the society.
Also at the work day, Treasurer Joe Whitaker was eager to share his wealth of knowledge about the Piedmont Hotel and Longstreet. He even went to grade school with Longstreet’s granddaughter, Jamie Longstreet.
During its time of operation, the Piedmont Hotel was visited by well-known guests, including editor and author Henry Grady. Future President Woodrow Wilson and his wife, Ellen Axson Wilson, were frequent guests; their daughter Jesse Woodrow Wilson was born at the Piedmont.
“Imagine Woodrow Wilson has stood in some of the spots we stood, and the general was here himself,” Clarke said.
The Piedmont was Longstreet’s political base throughout his long career as a Georgia Republican during which time he served as minister to Turkey, Gainesville postmaster, U.S. Commissioner of Railroads and U.S. marshal for the North District of Georgia.
The society relies on donations from members and visitors to fund and maintain the Piedmont. Recently, Stefanie Linquist and her husband Robert Morris donated two period piece chairs, located in the hotel’s W.L. Norton Jr. Community Room. Lindquist is the Dean of the School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Georgia. Other donated pieces include, a period piece sofa, donated by Longstreet Society members and Directors Steven and Charity Wang, and a china cabinet, tea set and other furniture donated by a descendant of Longstreet, Edward B. Crabbe.
Through tours and seminars held by the society, the society hopes to educate and contribute to the community around the hotel.
“Instead of being tucked away from the community, we hope that the hotel can be a part of the community,” Clarke said.
The society would like to expand the property in the future, hoping to be more involved in the surrounding area.
“We have about 300 members, and we have members in foreign countries and other places in the United States,” Whitaker said.
Clarke said he would like to double membership in the society.