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Volunteers spruce up historic Piedmont Hotel
Joe Whitaker, Piedmont Hotel caretaker, looks over old fire maps of Gainesville in the research library. - photo by NAT GURLEY

A sunny Saturday made for a great day of cleaning and sprucing up of Gainesville’s historic Piedmont Hotel.

With some tourists visiting throughout the day, it was a chance to make a good impression on the community.

The Longstreet Society and volunteers gathered for a cleanup day at the 19th century building at 827 Maple St. once owned by Confederate Gen. James Longstreet. The work included painting, yard work and repairs.

Peter Claymore, president of The Longstreet Society, said Saturday was about bringing people out to help, but also about taking pride in the hard work that goes into preserving a landmark full of Gainesville history and Longstreet artifacts.

“I was a naval officer, and shipshape means that there is pride in the appearance. Which means there is pride in the organization, and it shows,” he said. “If we’re proud of ourselves, then people will be more interested in us than if it looks like we don’t care.

“We want to do that for our members, for our guests. ... And one of the things beyond that is (we) try and get people involved. Have people feel that they are part of an organization. That’s all part of the whole thing.”
Richard Pilcher, past president of The Longstreet Society, helped with the cleanup Saturday, and said the biggest challenge was getting everything done, and not wasting time.

“We do this generally every spring, early summer,” he said. “The biggest challenge is getting everybody up and moving, which we’ve done pretty well today.

“The bleaching of the building is something new to us. We’ve never had to do that before. ... We’re all wearing our oldest clothes, and they’re coming out speckled in bleach. The building looks a lot better.”

Joe Whitaker, treasurer of The Longstreet Society and hotel caretaker, helped guide tourists through the hotel Saturday. He said the Piedmont Hotel is one of the few places in Gainesville that’s an original site and structure. It has received more visitors this year than in previous years, he said.

His cousin, Steve Whitaker, traveled from Spartanburg, S.C., to help clean the hotel, and he couldn’t have been happier with the help of others and what was accomplished.

“It was a great day,” he said. “It was a productive day. It was great to have guys working together towards a common goal. Joe’s my cousin, and I thought it would be good to come down and help clean.”

Bruce Glover, secretary of The Longstreet Society, said he comes over to the hotel to do yard work once a week, and said Saturday was important to the society.

“It’s important to us as individuals,” he said. “But we would like to see a better response from the community. It’s a museum of history for the community.”

Generation Inspiration, a Gainesville High School group, kicked off its summer by taking a tour of the hotel Saturday.

Timothy Folsom, 16, vice president of the group said it was his first time seeing the hotel and that it was interesting to see in person.

“There’s so much history that you never knew about,” he said. “The cleanup is important. Right now, the hotel is at our disposal (to use) and we can take advantage of it.”

“As long as we (The Longstreet Society) have anything to say about it, this building will be here,” Claymore said. “Our intention is to have it more used rather than less used. It’s an asset for the community. It’s an asset for a broader community.

“I want people to know that we’re here. One of the ways that they can know that we’re here is if we are reaching out to the community, and letting them see that we’re here so that more people here about it.”

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