Downtown Gainesville, Gainesville History

Gainesville: Queen City of the Mountains

Gainesville is a beautiful town nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains and considered to be the “Queen City of the Mountains”. The scenery has much to offer with it’s rolling hills and tree lined streets featuring Antebellum and Bungalow style homes from another time and century. Lake Lanier wraps its arms around the county of Hall attracting year round tourists to its aqua playground.

As of 2013, the U.S. Census Bureau reported the population of Hall County had reached an impressive 187,745 residents. While this growth may seem slow to outsiders if you ask a local they will have a thing or two to say about it. Growth is to be expected when you have the big city of Atlanta only a short distance away, that now has a staggering 5.7 million when last reported in 2016. Many residents of Gainesville and Hall County make the commute to Atlanta every day of the week, but the serenity of Gainesville helps them decompress from their weekly commutes.

The climate in Gainesville is exactly what you would expect benefiting from being at the edge of the mountains in North Georgia. The springtime is mild and sometime breezy where you can enjoy the Dogwoods and gardens of neighborhoods as they begin to bloom. The summer may be a little humid if you have moved here from the far north, but over time you do adapt to the refreshing change. There is a tale that the humidity keeps you looking younger for a longer period of time, the skin stays hydrated from all the moisture in the air. The fall and winters are mild, but when you least expect it, snow will fall. Just enough to make you miss it, but like a visiting relative, it will be gone as quickly as it appeared.

There is a lot of history in Gainesville and many know the story of a tragic tornado that hit here in 1903, but that was nothing compared to the big one on April 6, 1936. It was one of most destructive tornadoes that Gainesville and the nation had ever seen. It hit the heart of downtown skipping around the square and darting in and out of neighborhoods before it was done with its dance of destruction. The president of the United States at that time was Franklin D. Roosevelt, who came to Gainesville to honor the 200 lives that were lost and a monument stands in the Square today to commemorate his visit.

Gainesville was first known as Mule Camp Springs and still holds a festival every year in October that holds on to the history by calling it the Mule Camp Festival. The city of Gainesville began as a spattering of homes and stores at a junction of trails where people met to trade, dating all the way back to the 18th century. Created in 1818 and chartered in 1821 as the seat of government for Hall County. Immigrants came here from England, Scotland, Ireland and Germany to carve out a life in the new world. The name Gainesville was derived in order to honor General Pendleton Gaines, a hero of the War of 1812.

The neighboring town of Dahlonega experienced its own fame with the gold rush in 1828 that continued to attract people across the states looking to strike it rich! The gold rush was short lived, but the Hall County area continued to thrive based on its agriculture and livestock business development. The American Civil War between the North and the South of the 1850’s brought on a scourge to the South that devastated most of the area, with the exception of Gainesville. It was thought that Gainesville escaped the burning that Atlanta received, due to the fact that there were no rail lines in Hall County at that time. The railway was later added in 1871 advancing the cities growth.

By the 1900’s Gainesville had become a vacationer’s playground as it was thrust into popularity of a resort getaway. Electric power was established in 1902 and trolleys were a source of transportation. The textile industry expanded into the area in the early 1900’s but had nearly disappeared by the end of the century. The population stayed the same for much of the 20th century with the area hovering around 26,000. It was not until 2000 that the area’s population mushroomed to a surprising 139,000 and continues to grow an average of 3-5% per year.

A local entrepreneur and businessman by the name of Jesse Jewell launched the poultry raising, processing and distribution in the late 1930’s leading to an agricultural money producer that has led the area to be known as the “Poultry Capital of the World.” Georgia proudly claimed that title in 1995 making the title for Gainesville official. Recreation is a big part of the surrounding area with one of the largest man-made lakes in the United States. Lake Lanier is one of the busiest attractions bringing water lovers from surrounding area making it one of the largest economic sustainers in the region.

The area has become the nucleus that attracts some of the brightest and best in the financial, judicial, and medical fields. The hospital, Northeast Georgia Health Systems (NGHS) has been rated in the top nationally for care in cancer, stroke, pneumonia, and surgical. Private and public educational institutions abound: Riverside Military Academy, Brenau Academy and Brenau University, Gainesville State College, and Lanier Technical College. Home to the Smithgall Arts Center, art galleries at Gainesville State College and Brenau University, and the Quinlan Visual Arts Center. The Gainesville Ballet, the Gainesville Symphony, and local theater companies. The Elachee Nature Science Center and the Northeast Georgia History Center value the community’s concern for its cultural legacy and natural environment.

The attractions of high employment, cultural opportunities, and close proximity to the Blue Ridge Mountains, Lake Lanier, and Atlanta make Gainesville one of the best places to live. Future plans are to build a walking community for mid-rise living. Buildings where shops, restaurants and curio boutiques are located on street level and residential is located above, making it ideal for a city feel within in small town square environment. Planned development is in place to keep up with but to manage the growth in a healthy way that still maintains the warmth and serenity of current town living. All of this makes Gainesville the ideal place to call home!

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