Mill Village in the Boulevard National Register District


Sunday, October 21 at 2pm

Mill houses are vernacular in style—a simple, traditional construction that is plain in appearance, yet uniquely identifiable. Common rural Georgia house types such as the saddlebag, single-pen and double-pen were replicated in cities as workers migrated from the country. This house at 698 Nantahala Avenue is a saddlebag duplex with two-rooms bisected by a central chimney (recently removed) and gable-roof. Photo credit: Rinne Allen

In 1890, the newly-founded Athens Park and Improvement Company bought 300 acres north of Prince and west of Barber Street and made an agreement with the Athens Railway and Electric Company to extend its streetcar tracks into their land, establishing an easy commute to downtown. Thus, Boulevard, the first “streetcar suburb” in Athens, was established. Homes ranged from large Queen Anne Victorians to tiny shotguns, and virtually every social class and income level was represented. The north edge of this planned development was bounded by railroad tracks, and a textile mill—the Southern Manufacturing Company—was built there in 1902. The streets surrounding it were developed with mill houses for the company’s workers. Like many of Athens in-town neighborhoods, suburban flight and neglect took its toll in the mid-20th century, and the mill neighborhood became shabby and somewhat seedy. Luckily, the neighborhood’s character, cheap rent, and proximity to downtown drew artists, musicians and other creative types, many of whom later purchased and rehabilitated its homes. The mill, which had been unused for more than a decade and was in danger of collapsing, is being renovated into apartments and commercial space—Creature Comforts recently opened its new brewing operation there. The neighborhood is also the site of Peter Dale’s new restaurant venture, Maepole. The diversity which characterized Boulevard at its founding continues today, and eclecticism and creativity abound. This tour will last approximately 2 hours.

 

Tour guide:

Mary Conley was born in West Virginia but grew up in the Atlanta area. She received her BSEd from the University of Georgia and taught high school math in Gwinnett County for five years. Mary and her husband Chris, who also graduated from UGA, missed Athens and returned to live here in 1996. She tutored math at Athens Academy for 13 years and now stays busy with volunteer work such as serving lunch at Our Daily Bread. She is also an instructor at Revival Yarns, teaching knit and crochet lessons. Mary and her husband sought a house in town that had a mountain cabin feel, and they found it in what would become their home on Nantahala Avenue. Research on the home yielded the surprising conclusion that the house was composed of two rear wings rescued from the 1899 E. R. Hodgson house on Prince Avenue, which was demolished in the 1960s. Their renovation of the home won a Historic Preservation Award for Outstanding Rehabilitation from ACHF in 2016.

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