The Jonquil Historical Trail, Part 1

What follows is the first draft of a proposal I generated back in 2015 to establish an historical trail along a one-and-a-half mile section of Atlanta Road in Smyrna, Georgia. The city government approved the proposal, and is now in the process of implementing the first phase of this so-called Jonquil City Historical Trail. When completed visitors will be able to bring up historical narratives and related images on their cell phones and other electronic devices, enabling them to conduct self-guided tours of the historical heart of Smyrna.

The proposed trail as originally conceived would extend from the intersection of Atlanta and Windy Hill Roads at Belmont Hills southward all the way to the Creatwood neighborhood, with slight digressions into the Village Green/ Market Village/ Church and King Streets on the western side of Atlanta Road, and the historic Williams Park neighborhood on the eastern side.

Vantage points points for viewing the on-line narratives and images would be identified with artistically rendered numbered markers. In addition historical murals and sculptural elements would decorate the trail.

This first posting will cover sites 1-30 only, with a second post covering sites 31-60 to follow in the near future.
Jonquil Historical Trail Descriptions
(based on my initial draft, September 2015)

[1] Atlanta Road – At the time of the establishment of Cobb County in 1832, Atlanta Road was north Georgia’s principal north-south thoroughfare, and continued as such well into the 20th century. Originally an Indian path, this was the route by which pioneer settlers of the 1830s attracted by the Georgia Gold Rush and the Land Lottery of 1832 entered Cobb and neighboring counties to the north.

1a. 1839 map of Cobb County showing Atlanta Road copy

This 1839 map of Cobb County shows Atlanta Road as the principal north-south point of access to Cobb County and points north.

1b. Atlanta Road at Memorial Place in downtown Smyrna, with D.C. Osborne's Service Station in the foreground, c. 1915

The Memorial Place intersection of Atlanta Road as it appeared about 1915

[2] The Western & Atlantic Railroad (W&A) – Incorporated in 1836 by the Georgia General Assembly, this state-owned railroad, emanating from the newly established community of Terminus (now Atlanta), a settlement destined to become one of the nation’s leading railroad centers, was completed through Cobb County by 1842, and then on to Chattanooga by 1851. The year 1851 also witnessed the introduction of telegraphic communication into the area along the line of the W&A, thus integrating northern Georgia into the nation’s developing communication system. For most of its history, this historic railroad carried passengers as well as freight. During the Civil War it was the principle bone of contention between Union and Confederate forces in the decisive Atlanta Campaign. While travel by rail was expensive and therefore limited to the relatively affluent, this historic railroad nonetheless had a profound impact upon the economic development of the area.

2. W&A Engine at Terminus

The first engine to travel the W&A line through Smyrna, the Florida, parked outside of the W&A Engineering Office in Terminus (now Atlanta) in 1842. Illustration by Wilbur G. Kurtz

[3] The North Atlanta & Marietta Streetcar line – With the establishment, in 1905, of this 20-mile long streetcar line, extending from downtown Atlanta to Marietta Square, Smyrna took on a more suburban character. Local residents were now able to commute conveniently and inexpensively to jobs in Atlanta, just 40 minutes away by streetcar, and Marietta, just 20 minutes away or to any of the almost 50 intervening stops. Streetcar service was discontinued in 1947 as automobile ownership became virtually universal.

3a. Streetcar crossing the Chattahoochee River Bridge

A streetcar crossing the Chattahoochee River Bridge c. 1930

3b.Streetcar and horse-drawn conveyances at Glover Park in Marietta

The end of the streetcar line in Marietta Square, c. 1910

19. Last trolley to operate on the North Atlanta & Marietta Streetcar line , January 31, 1947

Last streetcar to operate on the North Atlanta & Marietta line, 1947

[4] The Dixie Highway – The automobile had an even more profound impact upon the Smyrna than the streetcar, especially after Atlanta Road was integrated into the Dixie Highway just after World War I. The Dixie Highway was one of the nation’s first interstate roadways, linking the Midwest to Florida. Tens of thousands of tourists traveled this route annually, passing through Smyrna where a complex of service stations (seven in the downtown alone), restaurants, and overnight accommodations arose to meet their needs.

4. Map of the Dixie Highway, one of the nation's first interstate roadways linking Florida to the middle west copy 2

Map of the Dixie Highway, one of America’s first inter-regional roadways, linking Florida to the Middle West, of which Atlanta Road formed a part

[5] Belmont Farm – This 200 acre Belmont Farm, located on land adjoining the northeast corner of Atlanta and Windy Hill Roads, was one of the leading centers of scientific agricultural, poultry, and cattle raising in the southeastern United States. It owners and managers, Edward Wight, Loring Brown, Henry Konigsmark, and J. Gid Morris were known far and wide for their innovative agricultural and stock-raising practices.

5a. Belmont Farm, houses and yards for Berkshire Hogs, Belmont Farm, Smyrna, Georgia

Enclosures for Berkshire Hogs at Belmont Farm

5b. Belmont House at Belmont Farm (1963), dating from 1900, built for Ed Wight, founder of Belmont Farm, SH 7-11-63, p. 3b

The Belmont Farm Mansion, built by founder Ed Wight in 1900, as it appeared in a much deteriorated state in 1963, having served for some years as a boarding house

[6] The Belmont Hill Shopping Center (1954) – The Belmont Hill Shopping Center, located at the southeast intersection of Atlanta Road and Windy Hill Road opened in 1954. Its principle promoter was businessman Bill Ward. Nearby Ward Street was named in his honor. At its inception the Belmont Hill Shopping Center was the largest such facilityin the southeastern United States.

6. Belmont Hills Shopping Center

The Belmont Hills Shopping Center, which at its inception in 1954 was the largest shopping center in the southeastern states

[7] First Baptist Church (1884) – The Smyrna First Baptist Church, founded in 1884, originally occupied a wooden structure that stood about where the Smyrna’s Second Baptist Church is now situated at the northeast corner of Atlanta Road and Powder Springs Street. The building was destroyed By fire in March 1924, at which point the congregation constructed the masonry structure at the corner of Church and King Street that now functions as the First Baptist Church Chapel.

7. 1884 First Baptist Church

The original First Baptist Church building, situated at the northeast corner of Atlanta Road and Powder Springs Road

[8] Smyrna Public Library (1936) – The Smyrna Public Library traces its roots back to 1936 when the Smyrna Women’s Club, founded in 1925 under the leadership of its first president, Lena Mae Green, established a small public lending library in its clubhouse at the southwest corner of Atlanta Road and Powder Springs Street. With the growth of the collection a separate room was built in the clubhouse to accommodate the collection. The Smyrna Public Library occupied this location until it was replaced in 1961 by a purpose-built structure situated on King Street. This building was replaced in 1991 by the existing library on Village Green.

8a. Smyrna Women's Club (first library), 1936

The Smyrna Women’s Club, the home of Smyrna’s first privately funded public library, founded in 1936

8b. Second Smyrna Public Library, 1961

Not until 1961 did Smyrna provide a publicly funded library building, situated on King Street

8c. Present day Smyrna Public Library at Village Green, dedicated in 1991

The present Smyrna Public Library on the Village Green, dating from 1991, constructed as part of the Downtown Redevelopment Project

[9] The Jonquil Movie Theater (1948) – Smyrna’s first movie theater opened in 1948 at the southeast corner of Atlanta Road and Sunset Avenue, a discontinued Street that then intersected Atlanta Road on the line of the present Smyrna Public Library and Smyrna Community Center buildings. The Jonquil Theater was established by Leonard Brascomb, publisher of the South Cobb Advertiser.

9. Jonquil movie Theater

Smyrna’s first movie theater, dating from 1948, stood at the corner of Atlanta Road and discontinued Sunset Avenue

[10] The Sunset Avenue Neighborhood – Despite prolonged resistance by local property owners, the Sunset Avenue neighborhood was demolished in 1990 to make way for the construction of the Smyrna Community Center and the city’s new Public Library, both of which opened in 1991.

10. Sunset Avenue looking west

Sunset Avenue looking west

[11] The Smyrna Downtown Redevelopment Project (1991-2002) – This project, which changed fundamentally the image of Smyrna, involved the construction of a modern city center on generous grounds on the western side of Atlanta Road—a complex of handsome buildings that included a large and well-equipped community center, a state-of-the-art public library, a new city hall, and modern police and fire department facilities, as well as a variety of architecturally coordinated commercial and residential structures, all handsomely landscaped. This decade long urban renewal process, presided over by long-term Smyrna mayor Max Bacon, represents a triumph of city planning and creative financing. The principal commercial component of the plan, Market Village, was dedicated in 2002.

11a.Birdseye View of Downtown Redevelopment Project

Birdseye view of the Downtown Redevelopmet Project, completed between 1991 and 2002

11b. Mayor Max Bacon at Market Village copy 2

Mayor A. Max Bacon, Smyrna’s chief executive since 1995, standing at the entrance of the recently completed Market Village commercial district

[12] The Veteran’s Memorial (2002)  The Veteran’s Memorial, containing the names of all those who gave their lives in the various wars of recent American history, was made possible through the efforts of the Veterans Memorial Association of Smyrna. The memorial was dedicated on October 12, 2002. Smyrna’s annual Memorial Day observation is held at this location.

12.Veteran's Memorial Park dedication

Smyrna’s Veteran’s Memorial dedication ceremony in 2002

[13] The original Smyrna Depot Site (1869) – No railroad depot existed in Smyrna in the period between 1842, when the W&A instituted service between Atlanta and Marietta, and 1869, though there were several designated stops along the route where platforms may have existed. Smyrna’s first depot was built in1869, four years after the Civil War. This original depot stood about 200 yards north of the Spring Street crossing. While no picture of 1869 depot is known to exist, it almost certainly resembled the Kennesaw Depot, which the W&A built a dozen miles to the north in the following year.

13.1870 Kennesaw Depot (presumed appearance of the 1869 Smyrna depot which stood about 200 yards north of the East Spring intersection)

While no picture of the 1869 Smyrna Depot is known to exist, it almost certainly resembled the Kennesaw Depot, seen her, which was constructed in 1870.

[14] Old Downtown Smyrna (late 1870s to 1989) – A thriving commercial center arose on both sides of Atlanta Road in the vicinity of the Spring Street intersection in the post-Civil War era. By 1930 the downtown contained some 45 mostly small-scale commercial and governmental structures. The prosperity and functionality of the old downtown was effectively undermined by a combination of forces in the years after 1930: the outmoded and cramped character of most of its buildings, the narrowness of Atlanta Road (then still a two lane roadway) and consequent traffic congestion along that rosdway, an absence of parking spaces to accommodate patrons, but especially post-World War II competition from several shopping centers that could be conveniently accessed by automobile. The first of these was the Dickson Shopping Center, built in 1946, at the intersection of Concord Road and South Cobb Drive. In 1989, with the long-delayed widening of Atlanta Road, the Old Downtown was demolished.

14.Downtown Smyrna, east side, as it appeared in the 1950s

The east side of Downtown Smyrna, which was demolished in 1989, to allow for the widening of traffic congested Atlanta Road

[15] Original Bank of Smyrna Site (1911) – The first two decades of the 20th century was a period of rapid growth for Smyrna. In 1911 the business leaders of the town founded the city’s first bank, housed it in a purpose-built structure that stood at the northwest corner of Atlanta Road at the corner of Bank Street (previously Ireland Avenue). Bank Street then intersected Atlanta Road. However, in 1926, as the market value of cotton went into a precipitous decline, the bank collapsed, with Smyrna residents thereafter obliged to utilize the banking facilities available in Marietta or Atlanta.

15a Bank of Smyrna 1911

The Bank of Smyrna building, dating from 1911, the community’s first bank

15b.Bank of Smyrna bank note 1

A Bank of Smyrna check dated November 6, 1914

[16] The Atlanta Northern Railroad Company building/ aka Georgia Power Streetcar Sub-Station. This station furnished power for the streetcar line that ran from Atlanta to Marietta via Smyrna. In the years after 1947, the structure was converted to other uses but retained its Atlanta Northern Railroad Company signage. The building later housed a deli and antique and gift shops, but these enterprises were unsuccessful owing to a lack of parking on the east side of side Atlanta Road. The sub-station was demolished in 1987 to allow for the widening of Atlanta Road.

16. Atlanta Northern Railroad Company buildin: Georgia Power Streetcar Substation

The Atlanta Northern Railway Substation, which had provided power to the streetcar line, as it looked c. 1980, having undergone extensive renovation for commercial uses. No picture of the building as it originally looked is known to exist

[17] Smyrna Elementary School [1920-24]. Smyrna’s emergence as a commuter suburb, especially notable in the 1910 to 1926 period, fostered a movement for improved public education. Prior to 1920 both the elementary and high school components of Smyrna’s public schools were housed in the old Academy building. This campaign for improved schools led to the construction, in 1920, of a $30,000 purpose-built, state-of-the-art elementary school structure on King Street just south of the Stephens Street intersection, a building widely regarded as one of the finest schools in Cobb County. When this building was gutted by fire in 1924, a second sizeable bond issue was authorized by Smyrna’s citizenry for its reconstruction.

17. Smyrna Elementary School on King Street, constructed in the early 1920s

The 1924 reconstructed Smyrna Elementary School on the west side of King Street, adjacent to the present Boy Scout’s hut

[18] Smyrna High School Building [1938]. Smyrna High School, which had a rather limited enrollment (most Smyrna families of means were sending their children to nearby Marietta High School in these years). The high school division remained in the old academy building when the lementary school opened, but was forced to relocate when the city sold building to the Nelms Masonic Lodge in the mid-1920s, taking up residence thereafter in a succession of temporary and highly inadequate locations. It was not until 1938 that Smyrna acquired a small, purpose-built high school facility, situated just east of the elementary school, a structure that was built by the depression-era WPA (Works Progress Administration) and which which still stands.

18. Smyrna High School on King Street corner of Stephens Street, constructed in 1938 by the Works Progress Administration (WPA)

The 1938 Work’s Progress Administration-funded Smyrna High School Building, which still stands at the corner of King and Stephens Streets.

[19] The Whitfield house (pre-1884) – This was the home of Mazie Whitfield Nelson, local historian, librarian, school teacher, and businesswoman. Miss Mazie was also an author, who in 1967 penned Smyrna’s first published history, a work entitled “Past, Present, and Future.” Mazie Whitfield Nelson was the daughter of Thomas P. Whitfield, owner of a grocery fronting on Atlanta Road. Thomas Whitfield served on the Smyrna City Council in the 1901 to 1907 period.

19.Whitfield-Nelson House

The Whitfield-Nelson House, dating from before 1884, one of four residential structures in Smyrna’s historic William’s Park neighborhood, that face Atlanta Road.

[20] Whitfield Store – Dating from the late 19th century, this two-story structure was the largest commercial building on the eastern side of the old downtown and backed up to the railroad tracks. Like most of the buildings on the eastern side of Atlanta Road it offered no parking to its customers.

20.The Whitfield Store on the east side of Atlanta Road in downtown Smyrna copy 2

The Whitfield General Store, dating from the early 1880s, was owned and operated by Thomas W. Whitfield, Mazie Whitfield Nelson’s father

[21] B. F. Reed house (1901) – Benjamin Franklin Reed, a major landowner, lived here with his wife and 10 children. Raymond Reed, their 7th child, a prominent lawyer, businessman and state legislator, lived here for the first 31 years of is life. B.F. Reed’s sons built the first apartment complex constructed in Smyrna, Southern Manor, which still stands at the intersection of Church and Reed Streets. In 1965 he acquired the imposing home at 3080 Atlanta Road, now known as the Morris-Reed House, which the city purchased in 2015.

21a. B. F. Reed House

The Reed House, dating from 1901, is another of the older homes in the Williams Park neighborhood that face out on Atlanta Road.

21b. B. F. & Palma Webber Reed as young couple

B. F. (Benjamin Franklin) Reed , major landowner, and his wife Palma Webber Reed, as a young couple

21c. Raymond Reed, USN 1942

Raymond Reed, seventh child of B.F. and Palma Webber Reed as a naval lieutenant in World War II

[22] Vinson-Crawford house  (1902) – The house is thought to have been built by Dr. George A. Vinson of Atlanta and his wife Gilllin as a summer residence. Later this was the home of Mrs. Fanny Crawford and her daughter, Pauline, who for many years was the pianist and later organist of the First Methodist Church.

22a.Vinson-Crawford House

The Vinson-Crawford House, built as a summer residence, by an Atlanta physician and his wife, is perhaps the most finely detailed of the William’s Park homes overlooking Atlanta Road.

22b. Dr. George A. Vinson

Dr. George A Vinson, who built the house in 1902

[23] Fouts Park – This tiny park fronting on Atlanta Road marks the site of one of the many automotive service stations that existed in the downtown in the days when that roadway still served as the principal north-south thoroughfare in Cobb County. By 1930 there were at least seven auto-related facilities in Smyrna’s downtown. The Fouts Brothers was situated at the northeast corner of Atlanta Road and East Spring Street, the only roadway carrying traffic of the downtown to points east prior to 1963. This intersection, incidentally, contained the town’s only traffic light.

23a.Fouts Brothers Station

Fout’s Service Station, at the northeast corner of Spring Street and Atlanta Road, was one of seven gas stations that accommodated the travelers on the Dixie Highway in the 1930s.

23b. Installation of historical marker, Fouts ParkScan

The site of the Fouts Service Station is today a pocket park. Seen here is the ceremony dedicating the park to the memory of the Fouts brothers.

[24] GB’s Place – A famous and popular local eating establishment, G.B’s, noted for its chili, fronted on East Spring Street, directly across from the 1907 Smyrna Depot. This small masonry building is said to have shaken every time a train passed by just outside its eastern wall. Also as trains waited on a siding by the depot for others coming from the opposite direction to pass by, the crew and passengers would sometimes alight to order food from the restaurant’s drive-in window. The popular G.B.’s also featured the city’s only pin ball machine, and the popular establishment also stayed open later than any other Smyrna eatery.

24a.G.B.'s Place Restaurant SN 1-12-76, p. 1.JPG (Marietta Daily Journal)

G.B.’s Place as seen in a newspaper photograph that appeared in a 1976 issue of the Marietta Daily Journal

24b.G.B.'s Place, interior

An interior view of.B.’s Place Restaurant

[25] Williams Park (2005) – This small park on Roswell Street, just north of the East Spring Street intersection, with its distinctive pergola and welcoming sign, was established in 2005. It marks the entrance of Smyrna’s most historic neighborhood, William’s Park, containing the largest concentration of older residential structures in the city, some twenty houses built between 1884 and 1920. The park and neighborhood were named for G.B. Williams, the owner-operator of G.B.’s Place restaurant. The area was commercially oriented from an early date—a cotton warehouse, known as “The Jamboree,” stood on the site of the park in the 1890s, when it was destroyed by fire, and after 1948 the Southland Ice Company built a plant here, that was was later converted to a plastics factory. The city acquired the property in 2004 and at the urging of local residents, demolished the abandoned factory structure, and creating this attractive pocket park overlooking the railroad tracks.

25a. G. B. Williams in G.B.'s Place

G.B. Williams, longtime proprietor of G.B.’s Place restaurant

25b. Southland Ice Factory Roswell St.

The Southland Ice Factory, which sat on the site of the park until demolished by the city for the creation of the park in 2004

25c. William Park Sign

A welcoming sign at Williams Park paid for and constructed by the Williams Park Neighbors, one of the city’s most active neighborhood associations.

[26] Smyrna Civil War Battlefield (1864) – On July 4th 1864, during the Atlanta Campaign, a battle was fought here between Confederate and Union forces, an engagement variously referred to as the Battle of Smyrna or the Battle of Smyrna Campground. While the Confederates succeeded in holding back the more numerous Union forces of General William Tecumseh Sherman in this vicinity for a time along the so-called Smyrna Line, the outnumbered Confederates were within hours obliged to withdraw across the Chattahoochee River toward Atlanta. This battle is believed to have resulted in several hundred casualties. One near casualty, was General Sherman himself, who was twice nearly killed in Smyrna.

26.. Battle of Smyrna Map, July 4, 1864

Map showing the Smyrna Line and the location of the Battle of Smyrna

[27] The Anderson-Black-Davis Houses (circa 1909 and 1912) – 1351 Roswell Street These adjacent houses, the larger built circa 1909 and the smaller circa 1912, have been owned by Anderson family members from the late 1930s to the present. The property was acquired by James Elmer and Dovie Lee Anderson in 1938. The original Anderson homestead and farm stood on Windy Hill Road, about where the Windy Hill Hospital stands today. The Andersons moved into Smyrna from their homestead in the countryside about 1920, but lived initially in the Anderson-Scoggins house on Roswell Street. In 1938 they traded that residence plus $1800 for the larger of these two properties. Their married daughter, Leila Mae, and her husband, William L. Black Jr. bought and occupied the smaller of the two houses in 1941, and moved to the larger one in 1957. Their daughter Liz (Black) Davis and her husband Ron Davis currently own both properties and occupy the larger of the two houses.

27. Anderson-Davis House

The Anderson Davis House on Roswell Street in the Williams Park Neighborhood

[28] The Terrell/ McGee house (1906) – 1389 Roswell St. This house was built by Carl Terrell for his widowed mother, Buena Vista Terrell, in 1906. Following his mother’s death in 1927, Carl and his wife, Bess Embree Terrell, moved into this house with their Children, Robert and Helen. Carl was very active in the social and political life of the community, serving as grand master of the Nelms Masonic Lodge at one point, and also as Smyrna City Clerk and a City Council member. His wife Bess kept a diary from the time of her arrival in Smyrna in 1927 until the early 1940s that provides countless valuable insights into the character of Smyrna in those years. Carl and Bess Terrell’s daughter, Helen married Marion McGee and their daughter, Nancy McGee, now owns the house. The Terrell McGee house has thus been in the same family for 110 years.

28a. Terrell-Magee House

The Terrell McGee House in Williams Park

28b. Bess Embree, 1909

Bess Embree Terrell, Smyrna’s principal diarist

[29] The Max Parnell birthplace – Max Parnell, World War II fighter pilot in the India-Burma-China theater (one of the famous Flying Tigers] and Japanese prisoner-of-war for the last eight months of the war, ranks as Smyrna’s greatest was heroes. His historically valuable papers, nearly 600 items in all, were recently donated to the Smyrna Public Library by his godson and namesake, Smyrna Mayor Max Bacon. Parnell was born and grew up in the fifth house on the west side of Highland Avenue (no longer standing), the home of his maternal grandparents, Marcus D. and Minnie Burns Lewis.

29a.Max and Virginia Parnell on the grounds of the Lewis House

Max and Virginia Parnell on the grounds of the Lewis House, c. 1942

29b.Max Parnell in Cockpit

Flying ace Max Parnell in the cockpit of his plane, 1944

[30] The New Smyrna Cemetery – The largest cemetery in Smyrna, privately owned, the New Smyrna Cemetery is still active and contains nearly 800 bodies, including many of Smyrna’s most distinguished citizens. Cemetery records indicate that burials here began in 1911, probably as the burial capacity of the publicly-owned Smyrna Memorial Cemetery was reached.

30. New Smyrna Cemetery

New Smyrna Cemetery on Hawthorne Street

To be continued in “The Jonquil Historical Trail, Part 2”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s