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New Holland: A new village rising
Old mill town site becoming a major community hub again
The New Holland mill town grew after the arrival of the Pacolet Manufacturing Co. in the early 1900s and was the largest textile mill in Georgia. Today, growth from Gainesville has put commercial industry in view of the sleepy mill village.

With a company store, churches, school and recreation center at their fingertips, residents hardly needed to own a car, let alone drive outside their quaint community east of Gainesville.

A century later, New Holland has gone through a renaissance of sorts, this time becoming a health care, education and now shopping hub for people throughout the Gainesville area. And the four-lane Jesse Jewell Parkway that runs through it is a major traffic artery.

“You hate to see things go down, but we’ve got to have it,” longtime resident James Gilmer said.

The newest addition to the community is the New Holland Market shopping center. Its main tenant, the 123,000-square-foot Kroger Marketplace, opened Wednesday to huge crowds. Store officials and politicians, including Gov. Nathan Deal, marked the occasion with band music, speeches and ribbon-cutting.

The shopping center is part of a planned 68-acre mixed-use development off Jesse Jewell and Limestone parkways.

In hailing the store as a sign of “great things happening” in the area, including New Holland, the governor also got sentimental, choking up as he mentioned getting married 47 years ago at New Holland Baptist Church. First lady Sandra Deal, who stood smiling nearby as he spoke, is a native of the village.

“These are the people I love,” she said after the ceremony. “They are wonderful, hard-working, honest, dedicated people, and it’s wonderful to see them to have the opportunity to see this facility built, to give jobs to this area.”

Officials boasted that the Kroger, with a clothing section and jewelry store along with the usual grocery fare, is the chain’s largest store in Georgia.

In 1900, civic leaders were similarly excited when Pacolet Manufacturing Co. came to the area with what would be the largest textile mill in the state. Local newspapers were clamoring as well, with Gainesville’s Georgia Cracker publishing an extra edition and a headline that read simply: “$1,000,000 Mill.”

Pacolet bought 850 acres on which to eventually build the five-story plant, along with 200 homes, a recreation building, store, school, church, athletic fields and offices.

When completed, New Holland was a self-contained model mill village, with a payroll of some 1,400 workers. The village’s population would soar to at least 3,000, mill officials estimated.

“Everybody was just family,” Gilmer said. “We didn’t worry about locking doors or leaving windows up. It was wonderful.”

Gilmer said his father didn’t even own a car until his brother went to college in Chattanooga, Tenn.

“We’d walk to town, get the groceries and somebody would drive us back or we’d get the taxi,” he said.

One of the village’s chief landmarks was its recreation center — still an imposing red-brick, two-story structure overlooking Jesse Jewell. It featured a large, heated swimming pool, which, as Gilmer recalled, fueled the Olympic dreams of three men who ended up going to war instead.

“Everybody just called it ‘the building,’” said James Waldrep, 79, who grew up in New Holland and now lives in Lula. “That was the place where everybody was.”

He also recalled residents’ dependence on the company store.

“It helped them and a lot of people in Gainesville get through the Depression,” said Waldrep, who worked at Milliken for 41 years. “The company would advance groceries and clothing and things like for workers. And a lot of them had friends in Gainesville who would get them to charge things for them — food especially.”

Milliken & Co. would later operate the mill, although a company bearing both names, Pacolet Milliken Enterprises, thrives today, owning the property where the New Holland Market stands.

Sandra Deal said New Holland served as a hub even in the early days.

“As Gainesville was developing, the settlers came more into this area (first),” she said.

Her parents, both teachers, worked some at the mill, but other family members were steady employees.

Many of the village’s old homes, which were later sold to families, occupy a grid of streets on a hillside north of Jesse Jewell. Some have fallen into disrepair, while others have been remodeled to retain their early 20th-century look.

One of the area’s other landmarks is the old New Holland United Methodist Church, which closed earlier this year after the congregation had dwindled to just a handful of members.

Over the past decade, the area has been built up with health care offices, such as North Georgia Eye Clinic and Jesse Jewell Park, and offices, including the New Holland Professional Park.

The Gainesville school system opened New Holland Knowledge Academy in 2003 off Barn Street. In 2009, it opened Gainesville Middle School at 1581 Community Way, next to Frances Meadow Aquatic Center.

And just earlier this month, Pacolet Milliken Enterprises Inc. donated 16.8 acres to Brenau University for athletic fields.

The planned $4.4 million development includes new softball and soccer fields for the school, along with facilities for track and field programs. Other plans include a community walking and jogging track, along with hosting various events open to the public throughout the year.

“We see this development as another community asset,” Brenau University President Ed Schrader said.

But the area’s biggest development has yet to fully materialize.

In 2012, Pacolet Milliken Enterprises, earned Gainesville’s approval to develop some 400,000 square feet of commercial space, 200,000 square feet of office space and about 300 multifamily residential units.

In addition to Kroger opening, a new road — Textile Way — has been carved off Jesse Jewell at Limestone, and a McDonald’s restaurant and a QuikTrip convenience store are under construction.

“Through this development, I think (Pacolet Milliken) has made a very positive contribution to the community here,” Jerry Moreton, Kroger vice president of administration, said at the Kroger grand opening.

“As those things come,” Sandra Deal said, “I’m sure we’ll get more and more development. We ... think it’s a good thing.”