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Longstreet Society hoping to build new walkway
Group selling pavers for its Maple Street offices
The Longstreet Society is selling red brick and granite pavers to help fund its Piedmont Walkway Project. The project will replace the small stone walkway that currently leads to the hotel’s entrance.

Walkway project

Those interested in buying a red brick or granite paver from the Longstreet Society can contact the organization at 770-539-9005 or stop by the headquarters at 827 Maple St., Gainesville, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Longstreet Society members hope to someday roll out the red brick pavers for visitors to their white clapboard headquarters on Maple Street in Gainesville.

The organization, which seeks to preserve the memory of Civil War Gen. James Longstreet, is selling red brick and granite pavers to help fund its Piedmont Walkway Project.

"We've got an ugly row of stepping stones from the parking lot to the front steps," said Richard Pilcher, society president. "It looks really bad. We thought about just taking those up and not having anything, but that's bad too.

"The logical thing is to put a walkway in and, if it would pay for itself, that would be all the better."

Longstreet, second in command to Gen. Robert E. Lee toward the end of the Civil War, settled in Gainesville after the bloody North-South conflict and bought an interest in the hotel in 1873 from its original owner, Alvah Smith.

Smith, who needed the $6,000 investment to finish the structure and pay off debts, never raised the money to buy back the hotel, and it ended up opening under Longstreet's ownership on June 13, 1876.

Over its life, the Piedmont was a bustling three-story structure that occupied a full city block and drew many high-profile visitors, including future President Woodrow Wilson and his wife. Their daughter Jessie was born at the hotel.

After Longstreet's death in 1904, the Piedmont was used for various purposes over the years, including a boys' school and a boarding house.

It took 13 years with numerous financial hurdles, but the hotel reopened as Longstreet Society's office in 2007. The total cost of the renovation topped $500,000.

Today, all that remains is a single one-story wing of the building, including the room where Longstreet members believe Jessie was born.

"It's really a nice building and (several Longstreet members) have done a lot to make it presentable and to get memorabilia in there, and stuff that is period to Longstreet," said Vince Evans, the society's vice president. "We just need a good walkway in there."

Red brick pavers cost $35 apiece and granite pavers, $20 apiece. Donors can have a message inscribed on them, with a limited number of characters and lines.

The society needs to sell about $1,500 worth of pavers "before we can get started," Evans said.


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