Summerville Commercial Historic District Listed in the National Register of Historic Places

Reposted from the GA DNR Historical Preservation Division website.

GA DNRThe town of Summerville was established in 1839 as the county seat of Chattooga County. Major growth was spurred by the arrival of the railroad in 1888. The town soon became a shipping center for chert, iron ore, and logs, as well as farm produce. The Summerville Commercial Historic District was listed at the local level of significance for its representative collection of commercial and government buildings that reflect design and construction traditions commonly found in Georgia towns. Most retail establishments date from the 1920s or later, and retain their historic integrity.

Summerville is the historic commercial center of Chattooga County. Typically the county seat filled this role and provided for the day-to-day commercial needs of nearby rural residents, such as retail stores and offices and professional services. As the county seat, Summerville is important for the presence of buildings directly related to activities and events associated with local county government, such as the courthouse and jail. Summerville was also recognized for the role of the railroad and the depot (1918), which served both passengers and commerce until the 1950s. The railroad line itself, which came through in 1888, forms part of the eastern boundary of the district. The town’s location along the Dixie Highway is important as the road was widely viewed as a way of spurring growth in the communities along its route. U.S. Highway 27 in Summerville follows the western route of the historic Dixie Highway. Established as one of the first transcontinental roads, it came through Summerville in the late 1920s. 

The Summerville Commercial Historic District encompasses about eight blocks in downtown Summerville. The majority of contributing buildings in the district are one- and two-story brick stores and other commercial establishments, constructed between the 1890s and 1950s. The district is anchored by three important buildings – the 1909 Neoclassical Revival-style Chattooga County Courthouse, the 1937 Colonial Revival-style U.S. Post Office, and the 1918 depot built by the Central of Georgia Railroad. A significant commercial building is the large, two-story, corner building with the word “Arrington” in the pediment. Built in 1894, it features brick pilasters, brick corbelling, and intricate brick details in the cornice. Two former theaters date from the early 20th century. The 1953 Farmers and Merchants Bank building is a good example of modern architecture. There is also a 1959 jail and sheriff’s office. The last major commercial building was a 1963 Western Auto store. The district has a few historic warehouses and wholesale businesses near the tracks, including the 1920 brick Taylor Mercantile Company. The Montgomery Knitting Mills property includes a historic water tower. Another resource is the site of “Big Spring,” known today as Willow Spring, which was one reason for the establishment of a town on this location. Water still pours from the underground spring, which is now the location of a small park. While the district is primarily commercial, the oldest building is the circa 1880 Moyers house, a small wood-framed Central Hallway Cottage. This reflects the fact that the downtown area was once partially residential.

The National Register of Historic Places is our country’s official list of historic buildings, structures, sites, objects, and districts worthy of preservation. The National Register provides formal recognition of a property’s architectural, historical, or archaeological significance. It also identifies historic properties for planning purposes and insures that these properties will be considered in the planning of state or federally assisted projects. National Register listing encourages preservation of historic properties through public awareness, federal and state tax incentives, and grants. Listing in the National Register does not place obligations or restrictions on the use, treatment, transfer, or disposition of private property.

The Historic Preservation Division (HPD) of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources serves as Georgia’s state historic preservation office. Its mission is to promote the preservation and use of historic places for a better Georgia. HPD’s programs include archaeology protection and education, environmental review, grants, historic resource surveys, tax incentives, the National Register of Historic Places, community planning and technical assistance.

The mission of the Department of Natural Resources is to sustain, enhance, protect and conserve Georgia’s natural, historic and cultural resources for present and future generations, while recognizing the importance of promoting the development of commerce and industry that utilize sound environmental practices.

Historic Preservation Division media contact is Helen Talley-McRae, public affairs coordinator – 404-651-5268 and helen.talley-mcrae@dnr.state.ga.us

Photos available upon request from Charlie Miller, media & communications coordinator – 404-651-5287 and charlie.miller@dnr.state.ga.us

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