Cornelia’s New Heritage Signs Provides Window to the Past

November 6, 2015

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Heritage signs in downtown Cornelia feature photos and information about the city’s history.

This story originally appeared in the November 2015 edition of Georgia's Cities.

Cornelia Main Street recently un­veiled the first series of heritage signs in its downtown, allowing visitors to learn some area history without maps or guidebooks. Ten buildings now display photos of structures, owners and customers from days gone by. Current own­ers and local historians generously provided pictures, long ago letters, and verbal histories to complete the project, and signs will be changed out periodically as different items and scenes become available.
 
Past uses were identified by in­terviews with property owners and long-time residents, and researching archived documents. An unexpected gem unearthed from city archives was a document about the history of Cornelia from 1900-1915 written by former city clerk Ross Maxwell Sr. in the mid-1900s. His account con­tained events not often heard about, such as the night when the wooden building that served as the city jail was literally overturned by former inmates.
 
Pictures proved more difficult to find. Ken Morris of the Hollow Log shared an extensive collection he had accumulated during his long custom framing career. Many dated back to the 1800s, and provided the visual element that had been lacking previously. After photos, documents and memories were gathered; graph­ic artist and Cornelia commissioner Don Bagwell used the material to create attractive signs for residents and sightseers to enjoy.
 
Cornelia is receiving assistance through the Archway partnership to create a second series of vintage Cornelia signs in 2016, and an intern is working on the research for them. Images of building interiors are par­ticularly hard to find. Those with old pictures of downtown buildings who would like to share are encour­aged to e-mail Archway Professional Rick Story at jrstory@uga.edu.

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