Tag Archives: Georgia Commercial Architecture

Chappell’s Mill, Circa 1811, Laurens County

Though some sources note that a John or Thomas Gilbert constructed the first mill, now known as Chappell’s Mill, on Big Sandy Creek [South Sandy Creek] in northern Laurens County circa 1811, it is more likely that it was James Stanley II (1771-1841), a settler from Jones County, North Carolina, who purchased nearly 2000 acres surrounding the millpond. [Primary sources are not available to me, so I cannot be certain of the date of the purchase, but the Stanley family migrated to Laurens County in 1811. It seems more than coincidental that the date of their move happens to be the date generally accepted for the construction of the mill]. He also operated a mercantile on the site.

The millpond site is considered to be the oldest man-made landmark in Laurens County. The old mill house, seen in the first two photographs, dates to the 1840s and was built after the original structure, which stood on the north side of the pond, washed away during a flood.

The stone work in the foundation certainly indicates the work of early craftsmen, almost certainly enslaved laborers.

Upon Stanley’s death in 1841, his son Ira B. (1802-1858) took control of the operations. He served Laurens County as sheriff in the 1820s and state representative in the 1830s. Until just after the Civil War the site was known as Stanley Mills, but in 1868 Ira’s son-in-law, James W. Chappell, gained majority interest in the mill. It has since been known as Chappell’s Mill.

Ira Stanley Chappell (1859-1931) was the last member of the Chappell family to own the mill. He sold it circa 1917 to Allen J. Dixon who sold it in 1943 to Dr. T. J. Blackshear.

Dr. Blackshear eventually sold it to Alex Dixon’s grandsons, James and Forrest Townsend.

During their ownership, the mill was expanded and electrified (1950s).

The Townsends always felt that water power resulted in a superior meal but the volume of work mandated the modernization.

At its peak, production ran to over 15,000 bushels per year.

The mill remained in operation until 1997. Its importance is not only in its longevity but in the fact that various structures associated with different eras of milling, from water power to electricity, as well as a mercantile and various barns, remain largely intact, and illustrate the evolution of what was one of Georgia’s most important early industries.

I am grateful to the caretaker for allowing me to photograph. It is private property and he noted that law enforcement often has to disperse trespassers. It’s an invaluable historical resource and the owners have been good stewards.

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Filed under --LAURENS COUNTY GA--, Chappells Mill GA

General Store, Laurens County

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Filed under --LAURENS COUNTY GA--

Warehouse, Coolidge

This large warehouse is presently owned by Coolidge Fertilizer and likely has performed other functions to local agribusiness over the years. I believe there was another long frame building across the tracks until a few years ago.

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Filed under --THOMAS COUNTY GA--, Coolidge GA

Imperial Hotel, 1949, Thomasville

Harvey and Dorothy Lewis Thompson opened the Imperial Hotel in 1949, as the only reliable lodging option in Thomasville for African-Americans. At the height of the Jim Crow era, when the simple act of travel could be dangerous for black people, the Imperial Hotel was listed in the Negro Motorist Green-Book travel guides, made famous by the 2018 motion picture. Dorothy’s brothers, the Lewis Brothers, were skilled brick masons and built the structure from the foundation to the top. The hotel featured eight bedrooms, a restaurant and barber shop. It closed in 1969 and has been in a state of decline since being abandoned in 2001.

Local historian Jack Hadley (of the Jack Hadley Black History Museum), who purchased the hotel in 2018, has been leading an effort to restore the property for several years. It inclusion in this year’s Places in Peril by the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation has brought the attention of CEO Mark McDonald, who has committed assistance to the project and expresses great enthusiasm for its future. To donate, visit Thomasville Landmarks.

In the end the property may reflect its original role as a hotel; plans to make it an Airbnb are presently in development with Florida A&M University architecture students and other consultants.

I’m unsure if it’s related to the hotel, but this shotgun house is located on the same property.

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Filed under --THOMAS COUNTY GA--, Thomasville GA

Obelisk Flour Ghost Mural, Moultrie

Moultrie Commercial Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

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Filed under --COLQUITT COUNTY GA--, Moultrie GA

Knight’s Fish Market, 1937, Moultrie

The Knight family opened this seafood market in 1937. The iconic sign may be nearly as old as the business itself. Charles Knight continued the tradition and kept Colquitt County supplied with the best fresh seafood available. The market closed in 2015, after nearly 80 years in business.

Moultrie Commercial Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

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Filed under --COLQUITT COUNTY GA--, Moultrie GA

First National Bank, 1904, Sparta

These detail shots of the old First National Bank of Sparta illustrate the pride small towns took in their commercial architecture at the turn of the last century. First National Bank was established in late 1903 and dissolved by 1923.

Sparta Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

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Filed under --HANCOCK COUNTY GA--, Sparta GA

Webster’s Pharmacy, Sparta

Webster’s Pharmacy, with its distinct facade, is a community landmark in downtown Sparta and a favorite with photographers.

Sparta Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

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Filed under --HANCOCK COUNTY GA--, Sparta GA

Steffens Restaurant, 1948, Kingsland

Steffens Restaurant has been a Kingsland and Highway 17 landmark since it first opened in 1948. Trellis Crews writes: I owned & operated Steffens Restaurant from August 23, 1989 until December 31, 2007. This is the original location which is about 4 miles from the Florida line. As a note of interest I worked there as a waitress in the late 60’s before the interstate I 95 came through & in the 80’s (a fire shut it down in the 70’s) with the previous owners Darrell & Willie Mae Dyal who purchased it from the Steffens family 23 years earlier. It retains much of the charm of the roadside diners that once thrived along the Coast Highway when it was the main route to Florida on the Eastern Seaboard.

The restaurant is almost always busy, attracting both locals and road trippers.

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Filed under --CAMDEN COUNTY GA--, Kingsland GA

General Store, St. Marys

Though the architecture of this structure would suggest it was a general store, it is possible that it has served another purpose at some point. I hope to identify it soon.

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Filed under --CAMDEN COUNTY GA--, St. Marys GA