Exploring Northeast Georgia – A Time Gone By – Kitty Stratton

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EXPLORING NORTHEAST GEORGIA

A TIME GONE BY

KITTY STRATTON

As the warm days of September give way to the cooler, crisp mornings of October and God’s glory is reflected in the rich palate of autumn colors, our minds shift back to a different time when Northeast Georgia was sparsely populated. Visitors came to enjoy the cooler mountains and enjoy the splendor of fall. Most of the resorts these visitors came to are long gone but if you look close enough there are reminders of this bygone time.

White Sulphur Springs was a resort just north of Gainesville, close to Lula. Similar to the resorts in Tallulah Falls and Mt. Airy, wealthy visitors and families would spend time at these elegant hotels looking to escape the summer heat and disease caused by mosquitoes carrying malaria. The hotels would provide relaxation for visitors, large porches with rocking chairs, outdoor activities, tennis or walking and in the evenings there would be fine dining, music and dancing.

Exploring NE Georgia - A Time Gone By  White Suphur Springs today - Kitty Stratton

Steps leading to the White Sulphur Springs Resort Hotel circa 1920’s and the ruins today

Many of these beautiful resort hotels were destroyed by fire, White Sulphur Springs burnt in 1933 and today a few poignant reminders exist of what had been a thriving health resort. Visitors would come to the springs and drink the healing waters. Today the ruins of this once beautiful resort are scattered over private property but a shadow of what existed can be seen in traces of stone steps and pillars, moss covered walkways and broken fountains.

Mt Airy, established in 1874 was another Northeast Georgia town that attracted visitors with the beautiful views from Grandview Avenue looking out over Lake Russell and the Chattahoochee National Forest. Mt.Airy lies on the Eastern Continental Divide, which means the waters falling on the east side of town run eventually to the Savanah River and into the Atlantic Ocean. The waters falling to the west flow eventually to the Chattahoochee River and then to the Gulf of Mexico.  With an elevation of 1545 feet, it was the highest point between New Orleans and New York on the Richmond and Danville railway line. Hotels established in Mt Airy were the Mount Airy Hotel which was built by Colonel Wilcox in 1886 and the Monterey Hotel which was built by the Gresham brothers from Virginia in 1902.  The Monterey Hotel stood where City Hall now stands but in its day the three-story structure boasted 150 rooms and 50 bathrooms. The Monterey Hotel, tragically suffered the same fate as other resort hotels in Northeast Georgia and burnt down in 1907. It was rebuilt and then sadly burnt again.

Tallulah Falls at one time, probably boasted the largest number of hotels in Northeast Georgia. The first hotel to open there was the Tallulah Hotel in 1840. When the railway finally came to town in 1882, this brought more tourists and more hotels were needed. Tallulah Falls had, at its height of popularity, seventeen hotels and boarding houses.

Cliff House Hotel, Tallulah Falls.jpg

Cliff House Hotel, Tallulah Falls, Ga.

From 1882 until 1921, an almost forty year span of time, Tallulah Falls flourished and was referred to as the Niagara Falls of the Southern States. People came mainly to see the Falls, but the hotels offered varied activities, music and dancing in the evenings, wonderful front porches to relax on and games such as billiards and tennis.  The end came in December 1921 when a fire broke out and burned for days. Most of the buildings were never rebuilt but the magic of that era can still be found in old postcards and photographs and history books.

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