Hart County Historical Society & Museum

The census of 1900 revealed that Hartwell had a population of 1,672. This was an increase from the 235 who lived in the new town in 1860. The new century also brought some of the latest innovations to Hartwell. A telephone company had begun operation. Frank Linder purchased it in 1903 with about 20 telephones in operation. The first automobile appeared around 1902. In 1912 the Sun reported "the new honk machines were as thick as fleas on a dog’s back with ownership reaching 50." The same year that Ty Cobb signed with Detroit, 1908, the city first required business licenses. Too, while talk of a public school system began to be a matter of serious consideration, the July 31st issue of the Sun featured the new Hartwell Institute on College Avenue. Board was $12.50 a month and tuition was $1.50 per month. Congressman Howard spoke at the dedication of the Confederate Memorial on the courthouse square erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy at a cost of $1350.00. One hundred and fifty of Hart county’s Confederate veterans attended the ceremony. Leon Morris purchased the Sun in 1909 and immediately began to encourage the idea of a bridge across the Savannah. Average time to travel from Hartwell to Anderson was one hour and two minutes.

Letters to the Sun from Mary Craft Ward who was studying music in Berlin gave Hartwell a view of Europe not seen before. Mrs. Lucius O’Neal, who was with her husband in Panama for the construction of the Panama Canal, kept Hartwell informed about progress on "the big ditch". President Theodore Roosevelt had sent the "Great White Fleet" on a world cruise and Mack Cason of Hartwell was a member of the crew of the flagship, the USS Connecticut. His letters from ports around the world published in the Sun provided its readers with an international outlook. 1910 saw a large crowd gathered on the courthouse square to view the passage of Halley’s Comet. Schools were closed in 1911 for a time due to an outbreak of smallpox.

The year 1912 brought the 2,007 citizens of Hartwell their first movie theater and an ordinance requiring the owners of the "honk machines" to drive on the right. A city owned electric plant was leased to the McCrary Power Company but 24 hour electric service was not available until 1913, when the Franklin Light and Power Company purchased the utility. December of 1912 brought one of Hartwell’s most destructive fires, with the telephone exchange, Page’s Furniture and Kendrick and Cobb (forerunner of the present Bailes - Cobb) destroyed. Rebuilding began in 1913 and McAlpin Thornton and E. E. Satterfield opened the first auto dealership. With the outbreak of war in Europe, in 1914 Hartwell organized its first National Guard unit, Company F, Third Separate Battalion of Infantry, Georgia National Guard.

The year 1914 also saw some expansion of business with Mr. L. A. O’Neal opening the first garage and one of the banks adding space. Hartwell voted bonds for water and sewer service and by April of 1915 the sewer pipe had been laid and the water lines begun. October’s 1916 county fair brought the first airplane to Hartwell doing aerobatics and offering rides to those brave enough to apply. In January 1917 a contract was awarded to A. N. Alford to build the long sought bridge across the Savannah. Congress declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917 and Hartwell’s Company F was called into active federal service on August 5, 1917. The three officers and one hundred men assembled, mustered into service and pitched camp on the school grounds. In June the first men had registered for the draft and in August the Sun published a list of the first men drafted. October saw Company F at Camp Wheeler, Georgia and the first Liberty Bond sale in the city. Hartwell’s first casualty in WWI occurred in December when Julian Peek was wounded in action in France. Company F moved to France where they saw active duty. Hartwell’s first killed in action in France was George W. Cason and the last casualty was Gilbert Thompson also killed in France. On November 11th at eleven o’clock the "war to end all wars" ended and Hartwell’s veterans came marching home to swell the city population to 2,323 in 1920.

The decade of the 1920’s, indeed, came in with a roar. In January the 1912 Vice-Presidential nominee and Democratic leader, Champ Clark, came to Hartwell for a speech. Alford’s bridge across the Savannah was completed in February and the Perfect Pea Picker Company was in operation. The Volsted Act brought prohibition in March and in June Hartwell’s post office was raised to second class. A new hotel was to be built, the Sun announced. A leading article stated there were "no boll weevils ir1 Hart County." Some clouds were on the horizon for in December some businesses had a reduction in employment.

Public recreation arrived in 1921 with the building of the city’s first swimming pool. And in June the city had its first ice plant. The religious revival of the 20’s caused "every tent to be filled" at the Methodist campground just outside of town. Hartwell became district headquarters for the Georgia Power Company successor to the Franklin Light and Power Company. Claude and Clayte Herndon opened their new drugstore on Howell Street and it soon became a popular gathering place for the young men of the town. Texaco Oil established a distributorship; the Auto Tire Company opened on Howell Street. The first Vocational Agriculture teacher was employed by the Board of Education. The Sun ran several articles urging women to use their new right to register and vote.

1922 was the year the boll weevil arrived in Hartwell and Hart County. Most issues of the Sun featured articles on how to deal with the devastating pest. In July a cash reward was offered for every boll weevil brought in, one assumes "dead or alive“, from June until September. However, the banks in the city reported increased deposits and the new Nancy Hart Hotel, built at a cost of $115,000.00, opened in March. While not public since it was held at the county farm, another convicted felon was hanged in May. Our WWI dead were honored by the erection and dedication of a memorial tablet on July 4th. Hartwell’s first civic club, Kiwanis, was organized on June 28th and immediately became an example of leadership. Every issue of the Sun carried a story about the programs, plans and progress of the new civic organization. The Hartwell Board of Education set the school budget for the year at $21,000.00. Teachers were to be paid, depending on their job classification and education, from $35 to$75 per month for the six month school year. Governor-Elect Walker spoke in November after the merger in September of two of Hartwell’s banks, The Farmers and Merchants and the First National. Another route to South Carolina opened in December with the completion of the Smith-McGee Bridge.

As the destruction of the cotton crop by the boll weevil became more and more serious, four car loads of calcium arsenate were delivered by the railroad early in 1922. Business was still good for total bank deposits were up by $228,000 over the previous year. W. I. Hailey was given the contract to construct a new post office building next to the Hailey building and by August it was completed. There were 6000 children in school in Hartwell and Hart County and Hartwell High School saw 24 graduates in June. The Hartwell Mills announced the purchase of the Toccoa mill and re-named it Hartwell Mill #2. With the completion of the Savannah River bridges, Hartwell was on the main route from the East and Northeast to Florida. The Sun reported a count of 412 cars per 12 hour day. It was certain the night traffic increased this by many more.

The Bankhead Highway, now US #29 or State Route #8, was created in 1925 and in September paving around the courthouse and on Bankhead Highway began. Hartwell, with its fine Hotel Nancy Hart, became an important overnight stop on the way to and from Florida. One important visitor who spent the night many times was Cornelius Vanderbilt, Jr.. Late in the year the state of Georgia purchased the bridges across the Savannah. About the same time, Hartwell citizens voted $50,000.00 in bonds for paving in the city. Hartwell now had two banks, the First National and the Hartwell Bank, and the population was estimated at 3,794.

A portent of years to come occurred when the Hartwell Bank failed in 1926. Most businesses were still solvent but the advent of the boll weevil dampened the economy and a slow exodus of population began. Roads, most particularly the Bankhead Highway (US #29), became more important to the economy. In 1927 the bridges across the Savannah became toll free. In July of 1928 the Nancy Hart Highway was dedicated and a marker placed on Benson Street where it began. The following year Nancy Hart’s great granddaughter visited Hartwell. The stock market crash of 1929 had little immediate effect in the city. However, the census of 1930 listed only 2,048 people in Hartwell. This was a decline of more than 10% from 1920.

The decade of the ’30’s did open on a hopeful note and brought the first talking pictures to Hartwell. In December, Klimax Overall Company of Winder opened a plant and added employment. Paving to Alford’s bridge on the Savannah was completed in 1931 and the federal government erected a monument to Nancy Hart on US #29. Governor Russell spoke at the dedication and Nancy’s great great granddaughter unveiled the monument. The entire business section was threatened by one of Hartwell’s most serious fires when, in October, Sauls’ Department Store and Yates Hardware located on Depot Street burned. Losses were estimated at more than $75,000.

The "Great Depression" came to Hartwell in reality when the First National Bank closed its doors on January 28th. The 1500 depositors did regain some of their deposits over several years. The city offered a discount on city taxes for early payment in an effort to continue city services. Slowly, the economic scene improved for in October of ’32 Gallant-Belk opened a store. By March of the following year highway #29 was paved all the way to Atlanta.

Another bank, The Citizens Banking Company, had opened in the late summer of 1932. Disaster struck again in December of 1933 when the grammar school, built in 1908, burned at a loss of $40,000. It was rebuilt in ’34 at a cost of $40,000. That year also saw Howell and Benson Streets paved to the city. Rural electrification was approved in 1936 and a site for a Federal Building/Post Office was purchased. Lights went on in June of 1938 on 102.6 miles of line. The Post Office had been completed in 1937 and the mural inside, painted by Denman Fink of Coral Gables, Florida, was done the next year.

Hartwell’s last Confederate Veteran, Mr. A. H. McLane, died early in 1939. What was to become Hartwell’s leading industry began the same month when the Nancy Hart Manufacturing Company re-opened. Jimmy W. Bell moved to Hartwell in March to become manager and, later, to begin The Hartwell Company. With aid from the Works Progress Administration, an auditorium seating 2000 was erected on the school grounds. World War II began in Europe with little notice in Hartwell.

The war in Europe came home to Hartwell when, in October of 1940, registration for the draft began. One thousand six hundred and fifty three Hart County men registered. Alf0rd’s Bridge was replaced that same month with the new Louie Morris Bridge across the Savannah. Hartwell had begun to recover from the economic depression and population rose in 1940 to 2,372. Nancy Hart Manufacturing, now Hartwell Manufacturing Company, making work pants and shirts moved to a new location on Howell Street to accommodate its increased employment and production in May of 1941. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, the "day that will live in infamy" changed forever Hartwell and the world.

Now, everyone concentrated on the war effort. Most issues of the Sun until 1945 listed men reporting for service in the Armed Forces. Too many issues carried the news that another young man had become a casualty. Rationing of essential items began in 1942. Gasoline, butter, meat, clothing, shoes and other items required rationing coupons. War Bond sales and scrap collection further involved the home front. Businesses closed their doors on Wednesday and school was suspended for six weeks at harvest time to harvest the cotton. There was tragedy at home, too. In April of 1944, a tornado hit the county. There was little damage in the city. In the Nancy Hart section ten were killed and damage was extensive.

August of 1945 brought peace with the surrender of Japan and as the servicemen retuned Hartwell turned its attention to a new era. Bellcraft Manufacturing began operation in 1946; voters approved, in principle, the idea of a Hart County Hospital and radio station WKLY went on the air. Wilson Page, a retuning Navy veteran, was elected mayor and brought fresh ideas and new spirit to the city. The years of 1948 and 1949 saw great growth in the city. Textron Corporation opened its plant, now Deering-Milliken, for weaving fabrics and the Funkhouser Corporation began the mining of mica. The city budgeted $200,000 for expansion of water and sewer lines. Several new sub-divisions opened adding more than 75 new homes. The Baptist and Methodist Churches added new Sunday school buildings. The Kiwanis Club was re-organized after losing its charter in the early 1930’s. The Hartwell Mills doubled its production and Textron expanded its new plant. In 1949 the city opened 20 new streets.

The decade of the 1950’s was to be the period of greatest growth for Hartwell. Population would increase from 1964 in the census of 1950 to 4,599 in 1960. For the first three years the city would cope with growth while the country was at war. The Sun would, once again, publish lists of men drafted and casualty lists from the Korean War until the cease fire in 1953.

In January of 1950 the city council established the Hartwell Housing Authority and in April the Housing Authority was authorized to build forty units. The first quarter also brought the news that Monroe Auto Equipment Company would build a plant in Hartwell for the manufacture of shock absorbers. This plant would eventually employ more than 900 men and women. Hartwell Dam was authorized by Congress though no funds were appropriated. Natural gas service came when, in September, revenue certificates to finance construction of this utility were approved by the voters. December saw the establishing of an Army Reserve Unit, the 963rd Engineer Dump Truck Company. Additional housing was necessary and in 1951 the Knox Corporation purchased land on which to build 100 new homes. The years 1952-1953 brought consolidation of the city and county school systems and a $1,250,000 expansion of the schools. Bonds were approved for construction of Hart County Hospital. Hart County’s Centennial Year was 1953 and the Sun reported the celebration in June was the "Greatest Event in Hart County History". The mayor and city council employed the first full time fireman and named Maurice Vickery as Fire Chief. Additional firefighters were employed in later years until the Department consisted of seven full time firemen. This decision was to become more and more important in future years. With the leadership of Chief Vickery and the cooperation of the mayors and city councils, the fire insurance rating of the city was reduced to a "4" by the late 1980’s. This reduced the cost of fire insurance in Hartwell.

Twenty-five new homes were built in 1954 and bids were taken for the construction of the Hospital and the County Health Center. The Post Office’s classification was increased. In May, Hartwell and Hart County lost its biggest booster when the editor and publisher of The Hartwell Sun, Louie Morris, died. Hartwell paved four and one half miles of streets in 1955 and approved a bond issue for construction of a new city hall. The first major contract was let for the construction of Hartwell Dam. More construction began in January of 1956 when work began on the Monroe Auto plant. Construction was completed later in the year as was construction on the hospital, city hall and the high school. Hartwell’s National Guard Company was organized and an Armory planned. The city established a Planning Commission and Congress authorized $10,000,000 more for Hartwell Dam. An important recreation program for the youth of the city and county began with the creation of the "Little League" for baseball. Herndon Stadium, named for "Mr. Pete" Herndon, was dedicated in the fall of 1957 and a Booster Club organized for high school athletics. Monroe Auto expanded its new plant, the Sun moved to a new building and the contract for concrete work on Hartwell Dam was let at a cost of $22,000,000. The city was made a bird sanctuary. The Public Housing Administration approved funds for 24 units in 1958 and the Hart County Community Fund was organized. The new bridge across the Savannah was dedicated and named for the late Louie Morris. The final year of the decade saw the first water impounded in Lake Hartwell and the voters approved a bond issue of $125,000 for additions to the hospital.

Expansion of existing industry continued in 1960 and Fisher Manufacturing Company, which had located in Hartwell in 1947, merged with National Vulcanized Fiber Company. Hartwell gained its first motel, located just outside the city limits, and the National Guard Armory was authorized. The hospital completed a $300,000 expansion and Hartwell Garment (later the Hartwell Company) opened its new executive offices. Hartwell Lake was fully formed in 1961 and two new industries, LI-IP and Southern Umbrella, came to the town. A second bank, The Bank of Hartwell, was organized and opened in November. A $400,000 school bond issue was approved to add a gymnasium and educational buildings. Post Office additions were made in ’62 and the National Guard Armory completed. The city resurfaced 26 streets and paved four.

The city and county created the Hart County Industrial Authority in 1963 Amerotron, formerly Textron, was sold to Deering-Milliken, Monroe Auto and The Hartwell Mills expanded and Gip’s Manufacturing Company began operation. State and federal grants enabled the city to begin a water and sewer project costing more than $1,500,000. Local participation required an increase in water and sewer rates. Completion was scheduled for 1965. Completed on schedule the water plant began operation. The Hotel Nancy Hart, an outdated landmark, was demolished and the Citizens Banking Company completed its new building on the site. Bellcraft and Gip’s expanded their production. The city resurfaced an additional 20 streets and in 1966 voted to install "white way" lighting in the shopping district and to the city limits. The new sewage plant began wastewater treatment.

The new year, 1967, brought Hartwell’s greatest fire when the Hart County Courthouse burned in January. It was fortunate the city had, the previous year, installed a new water tank. Almost 700,000 gallons of water were used to fight the conflagration. Without the added capacity of the new water plant and the new tank there would not have been enough water to fight the fire. Yet another war was-in progress and Derward Cordell was Hartwell’s first casualty in Vietnam. Hartwell Garment Company, now The Hartwell Company, expanded its production facilities again. Development of Hart State Park was assured. In November voters approved bonds for a new Health Center but a bond issue for a new courthouse failed. The Army Reserve Building was donated to the county by the federal government and is now the office of the County School Superintendent. The city revamped traffic and made progress in natural gas development, street lighting and paving. In 1968 Dunlop Manufacturing Company came to the county and the mica mine was purchased by Franklin Mineral Products. The voters of the city and county settled the question of control of the hospital with an overwhelming vote to create a Hospital Authority. The Authority was created in 1969. The Citizens Banking Company was sold and became an affiliate of Citizens & Southern National Bank and was re-named Citizens & Southern Batik of Han County. In 1982 it would become totally owned by C & S National Bank. The Hartwell Company began construction of its new plant as the decade ended.

The census of 1970 showed a population increase of only 3.8 percent for a total of 4,865 citizens in the city. The federal court order desegregating the school system was met. The former Hart County Training School now became the Junior High School. The city erected a new fire station located by the city hall. In the November election the voters approved a $200,000 bond issue for a new courthouse. The contract was let in 1971 and by December the first session of Hart Superior Court was held in the new building. The importance of tourism became apparent when 5.6 million visitors came to Lake Hartwell in 1972. Hartwell’s first nursing home was planned and was completed in the following year. Bonds were voted for expansion of Hart County Hospital and Dunlop added production facilities. On Memorial Day The American Legion Post dedicated an Eternal Flame and the VFW post erected a flag pole on the courthouse lawn in memory of those who died in WWII.

Construction had begun on the hospital addition but it was far from complete. An influenza epidemic in February of ’73 filled the hospital to overflowing. Mrs. Katherine Hailey led in a drive to establish a new library in Hartwell. The Board of Finance, then the governing body of the county, pledged $88,000 and a drive to raise an additional $25,000 began. The city council approved a mobile home ordinance for the city. In November, for the first time since 1884, the sale of beer and wine became legal in the city when the council approved the sale. Seven licenses were issued to merchants. The Georgia Mountain Area Planning and Development Commission, at the request of the city, began a program for Senior Citizens.

Work began on the Hart County Library in 1974 and a bond referendum for 1.5 million dollars was approved for school bonds. The hospital addition was completed and Hartwell’s first public kindergarten graduated in May. Hartwell’s third bank, a branch of Athens Federal Savings and Loan, opened a branch in December. Hartwell’s second shopping center, Village Plaza, opened in February of 1975. The city updated its water plant and began planning for the National Bicentennial celebration to be held in March. Hart State Park was closed by the state. Hartwell, the Chamber of Commerce, Hart County and the legislative delegation began work to save it. It re-opened in May of 1976. Hartwell’s zoning ordinances were challenged. Monroe Auto employees voted to de-certify the United Auto Workers Union which had been organized several years earlier. Hart County High’s new Vocational High School was dedicated at the end of the summer.

January of 1977 brought severe winter weather to the city but also news that ten low income housing units were planned for Savannah street. Ownership of Monroe Auto Equipment Company changed; Monroe became a subsidiary of Tenneco, Inc. N. S. Hayden, the franchisee for cable television, had not exercised his rights. The city now awarded the franchise to Wayne Communications. In a meeting with the Board of Finance, the city agreed to pay one-third of the cost of the county landfill. This would become a major issue in later administrations. The city would later maintain this was double taxation since city taxpayers also paid county taxes. A second nursing home was given approval by the city and approved by the state in January of 1978. Voters, in January, approved a 1% local option sales tax. Taxes were collected for several months, beginning in June, but collections ended in April of 1979. At that time the Board of Finance offered the city 10% of the tax collected or nothing. The city rejected this offer. State law required an agreement be reached on the division of funds collected. With no agreement, the tax was ended. Discussions between the city and county about a possible merger of governments also ended. The previous year Hartwell firefighters had obtained a ladder truck. Response time is critical in fire fighting and the Fire Department installed a "beeper" system to quicken response. The new Industrial Authority purchased a site outside the city limits on highway 29 south. Cable television for the city was approved by the Federal Communications Commission.

In June the misappropriation of $155,000 in city funds was discovered. Other bad news this year was the lay-off of 225 employees by Monroe Auto and 35 by Dunlop. Another grant for $528,000 for public housing was announced for Hartwell. The city approved plans for modification of the sewer plant and adopted ordinances to create a fire bureau and fire prevention code. Ellis Foster was named City Administrator. Hart Care Nursing Home opened in December. The Department of Labor announced that Hartwell’s unemployment was highest in Northeast Georgia.

Unemployment reached 10.5% in January of 1979. An expansion by NVF began to reduce this figure. The city council approved its first sign ordinance. In February the most severe ice storm of the decade caused damage to local utilities of more than $100,000. February also saw the birth of what was to become one of Hartwell’s major cultural offerings. The group that was to be the Hart County Community Theatre held auditions for its first play, “Come Blow Your Horn". In April the production was presented in the Elementary School auditorium. The Historical Society was formed and it, too, was to have a major impact. Monroe added 200 employees further reducing the unemployment percentage. Work began on the Industrial Park site fueled by a $40,000 grant from FHA. Another beginning in June was Hartwell’s Pre-Fourth Extravaganza sponsored by the Hartwell Junior Service League. This event would develop into an annual major event in Northeast Georgia. A re-call drive for the mayor and a councilman failed in October. Environmental Protection Agency grants were received by the city water and sewer departments. Parking meters were removed and two-hour parking in downtown Hartwell was ordained by the council. Morris Communications purchased The Hartwell Sun. The city was ordered by the Superior Court to enact new zoning ordinances and create a new map.

The December city election saw an important event in the city’s political history. Joan Haddad Saliba (Mrs. Elias. S.) was elected as Hartwell’s first woman council member. The year ended with the production of the Theatre’s second production, "Harvey".

The decade of the eighties began with a blow to public transportation when bus service to Hartwell ended. The court ordered revision of the zoning ordinance was passed and a new map created. The first computer terminals were installed in the Hartwell Police Department linking it with the State network. A grant by the Environmental Protection Agency of $41,000 was awarded for a study of the wastewater treatment system. The Hartwell Inn (bed and breakfast) opened in one of Hartwell’s historic homes. Work began on the Industrial Park site in September. The national problem of drugs came home to Hartwell when, in September, a drug raid by city and county law enforcement netted a cache of drugs and $20,000 in stolen merchandise. Councilwoman Saliba was named to the Georgia Municipal Association steering committee. November saw the organization of another group destined to impact favorably on the community, Friends of the Library. Hartwell’s population declined to 4,855 from 4,865 in 1970.

The year 1981 began with another grant for the city. This grant was from the department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for $444,000. Rainfall this year was to be the lowest since 1849. Hartwell and Hart County suffered physically and economically in the drought. Hartwell Lake reached its lowest level since its creation. During the year the Community Theatre presented three productions. The city applied for a $911,000 loan from Farmers Home Administration for improvements to the city water system.

Mayor Robert Wages died in September. Councilwoman Saliba resigned to offer for the office of mayor in the December election. This election saw two historical political events. Mayor Wages’ term of office would have ended in January. The mayor pro tem completed the unexpired term. Mrs. Saliba was elected Hartwell’s first woman mayor. Sarah Mayfield (Mrs. Prentiss) was elected as Hartwell’s first black council member.

Major changes began in city administration in 1982. The city conducted its first full audit and adopted its first balanced budget after public hearings. Subdivision ordinances dealing with development and use of land to encourage sound and stable land development were passed. A sewer use ordinance regulating industrial wastewater discharges was passed by the mayor and council. The city approved a personnel policy developed by the Georgia Mountain Area Planning and Development Commission (GMAPDC) to be carried out in 1983. Police officers attended the Northeast Georgia Police Academy. A Fire Marshal was approved to begin work in 1983. A building inspector was proposed as was codification of all city ordinances. Monroe Auto donated two garbage trucks in settlement of a disputed utility billing. A federal grant of $444,000 renovated 23 low income homes. The city resurfaced 1.97 miles of streets. The Hartwell Housing Authority approved a bid of 1.39 million for new housing facilities. EPD granted $333,000 to finance partially water system improvements and the loan from FHA for $911,000 completed the financing. Other grants financed an energy study in city departments and upgraded the recreation park. I11 other areas, Hartwell’s third bank, Athens Federal, broke ground for a new building on Howell street and Hartwell Elementary school was renovated.

1983 brought more grants to Hartwell through the work of the mayor and council. A full day’s water supply and improved water pressure was assured with the construction of a 650,000 gallon water tank funded with a $393,250 grant from EPA. The city received a $400,000 sanitary facilities grant for poor and moderate income citizens to improve sanitary conditions. The 1980 census showed 62 homes in Hartwell lacked bathroom facilities. Grants for improving insulation of low and moderate income homes and for beautification of downtown Hartwell and Depot Street were received. A revolving loan fund for expansion and creation of new jobs was created with an Urban Development Administration grant. A loan of $795,000 was made to National Vulcanized Fiber creating more than 70 new jobs. Another loan of $50,000 was made to aid in development of a short line passenger railroad for tourism.

LHP Corporation doubled in size. Work began on 30 apartments on Chandler Street. Gip’s Manufacturing expanded its production. The city’s sub-division ordinance was amended to require streets to follow state standards. Georgia celebrated its Semiquincentenary (250th) birthday. Mrs. Ruby Nell Bannister represented Hartwell as Nancy Hart in functions across the state. The Georgia Legislature set January 21st as Nancy Hart Day.

Hart County Chamber of Commerce appointed a Tourism Council in January of 1984. Spurred by two mothers, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) was organized in March. Hartwell now had more than 1,000 cable TV customers. Hart County Telephone erected its new building and NVF completed a $3,000,000 expansion. The Hartwell Railroad with its 1925 steam engine was featured in a series of television commercials for Georgia Railroad Bank. The Depot Street Development Corporation was organized to promote that area for tourism. Hartwell Coca-Cola Bottling Company was sold to Western Carolina Coca-Cola. In the November general election Hartwell voted Republican for the first time. In December the mayor and council established new street front garbage pick-up with a saving in manpower and money to the taxpayers. 1985 began with a record cold snap. The thermometer dropped to six degrees below zero. Aided by gifts from individuals and several organizations, including $15,000 from Monroe Auto, Hart County Community Theatre purchased and began converting a building on Depot Street for a permanent home.

Construction of fifty units of low cost housing begun in 1982 neared completion. The mayor and council approved plans for a Downtown Development Authority. This would furnish low interest loans for expanding or new businesses in the downtown area. An addition was made to the fire station and the sewer treatment plant was upgraded. The State of Georgia purchased the tourism train. In April, Hartwell was named an All Star City by Governor Joe Frank Harris. The Bank of Hartwell was sold to Northeast Georgia Bank of Lavonia and LHP was sold to W. C. Lester of Elberton. The Hartwell Railroad announced plans to close after 106 years of operation. In July the voters approved a 1% special local option sales tax for roads and bridges but rejected a 1% general local option sales tax. The city council set a capital improvement fund and established a salary guide developed by GMAPDC. The Department of Transportation first proposed re-routing of State route #8 (US Highway 29) in town. The city qualified as a Certified City, one of few in the state.

The year of Halley’s Comet, 1986, arrived with news that new investors would revive the Hartwell Railway operation. The repairs to the wastewater treatment system resulted in lifting of a moratorium imposed by the State on additions to the system. Hartwell’s Historic Preservation Ordinance was passed and a Historic Preservation Commission was appointed. Athens Federal was sold to Bankers First Corporation. At a joint meeting with the Board of Finance the city and county agreed to split the cost of moving gas lines on Highway 29. The Department of Transportation had confirmed a plan to widen the highway through town. Another grant for $350,000 was secured by the mayor and council. This grant financed the construction of sidewalks, curbs and gutters in a portion of the "Rome" area of the city. Negotiations with the Wal-Mart chain resulted in the annexation of land on US Highway 29N where the store would locate. Hart County library began a drive for funds to expand. A drought, breaking all previous records, hit Hartwell and the county. The nation was to celebrate Bicentennial of the signing of The Constitution of the United State in1987. Hartwell was named a Bicentennial city, one of only six in the state. The Historical Preservation Commission named four areas and 28 homes as historic and had them added to the National Register. The State awarded the city a grant of $109,000 to build a sewer line to the Industrial Park and install the necessary lift station. The community was saddened by the loss of two of its most prominent citizens during the Year. Mr. W. P. Carter, known as "Mr. Hartwell", for his life-long boosting of the town died in February. In October, Hartwell’s leading industrialist, the founder of The Hartwell Company, James W. Bell, died.

Hartwell’s budget for 1987 was 1.5 million dollars and some water rates were increased. The city and county could not reach an agreement on division of the 1% special sales tax. The tax remained ir1 effect and the county did share a small portion with the city. Woodlake Apartments on Chandler Street announced they would double the size of the complex. By March winter and spring rains had brought the lake back to normal levels. Creative Fabrication Incorporated (CFI) was organized and selected a site in the Industrial Park. The state Environmental Protection Department mandated the upgrading of the city’s water treatment plant. The mayor and council instructed the city engineering firm to determine the needs and recommend solutions. One of Hartwell’s citizens, Ann Adams, was elected President of Pilot International, a civic and service club for women in business and the professions. Hartwell Rotary "Club celebrated its fiftieth anniversary. Two industries, the Mearl Corporation and Andy’s Sales, announced construction or expansion plans. In October the voters approved a three million dollar bond referendum for construction of a Middle School. The Vietnam Veterans, in November, dedicated one of the first Vietnam Memorials in the state honoring those men from the county who died in that conflict.

For the celebration of the Bicentennial Year of the signing of the Constitution of the United States, Hartwell scheduled two events. The city named an alley on Howell Street Constitution Alley and erected wrought iron gates. The 4-H clubs of the county paved it with brick. The Chamber of Commerce sponsored the burial of a time capsule. The capsule depicted life in the city and county in the 198O’s. It was buried on the courthouse square on September 16th. Mayor Saliba made a brief address and a plaque was placed over it showing it was to be opened in the year 2087.

The Georgia Power Company had vacated its Hartwell Operation Headquarters on Fairview Avenue and constructed a new building near The Center of The World. Mayor Saliba, in talks with top management of the company, succeeded in having the building donated to the city in exchange for removal of asbestos in the building by the city.

Hart Clean and Beautiful was chartered in 1989 and by 1990 received both state and national awards for its anti-litter and recycling efforts. With financial problems, the Hart County Hospital Authority chose to retain the services of Brim, Inc. to manage the hospital. Hartwell was featured in The Progressive Farmer as “the little town that could". BRAG (Bike Ride Across Georgia) brought more than 1000 cyclists to Hartwell in June. The Bank of Hartwell held an open house in its new building on Franklin Street. The 911 emergency telephone system began operation. The Hart Detention Center, a low security prison for first offenders and prisoners with short sentences, received its first inmates.

In government the year brought a law suit by the NAACP against the county seeking a change in the form of government. The city received a petition signed by the necessary number of voters which required it to hold a referendum on the sale of liquor in the city. The date for the referendum was set for January 18, 1989. The county announced plans to revalue property in the county and city.

The referendum in January 1989 on the question of liquor sales failed by a vote of 551 against and 337 in favor. A second vote was scheduled for later in the year for the city and county to vote on a special 1% local sales tax to build a new jail. When the vote was held in October the special tax was defeated. In May, Judge Fitzpatrick of the Federal District Court ir1 Macon ruled the county government would be five part-time commissioners. The county would be divided into five districts approximately equal in population. One district would have a black majority, and one commissioner would be elected from each district. The new Board of County Commissioners was elected in October. They, in turn, elected their Chairman.

Hartwell’s Mayor Saliba was "roasted" at a dinner sponsored by the League of Women Voters in March. The Hart County Community Theatre was presented an award by the Georgia Mountain APDC and celebrated its tenth anniversary. Hart State Park was renovated and re-opened in May. The hospital volunteers held a formal ball this month. It would become an annual affair. Mrs. Katherine Hailey was honored at the dedication of the new addition to the Hart County library. With the traffic flow change begun by the Department of Transportation, Mayor Saliba and the city council visited the department head in Atlanta to secure a historic building purchased by DOT. The State gave the Holland house on Howell Street to the city. The city, in turn, gave it to the Historical Society for use as a city museum.

The census of 1990 showed a slight decline in the population of Hartwell to 4,555. The drug problem continued to plague both city and county with arrests made weekly. Cooperation between the two governments improved. Both groups, the mayor and council and the newly elected Board of Commissioners, appealed to the Department of Transportation for an access road to I-85 as well as a by-pass around the city. The DOT responded with the statement that both were on the agenda for the future. In May, Dundee Mills purchased The Hartwell Mills and in June announced that construction would begin immediately on a new plant. The plant would occupy a site already owned by the company which adjoined the Industrial Park. The Georgia Legislature had passed legislation requiring all governments to prepare a Growth Strategy Plan. The city chose to employ the Georgia Mountain APDC to aid in the development of its plan. The new Middle School was dedicated in May and Ninth District Opportunity secured the old Junior High building. In July the city annexed Bellcraft Manufacturing Company, now owned by The Hartwell Company. A grant for $400,000 was secured to construct a Senior Citizen Center. Construction would begin in 1991. The new property appraisals caused many angry taxpayers from the city and county to appeal the appraisal of their property. Downtown merchants, too, were not pleased with the new traffic routing in the city. A decision by the mayor and council to reinstate the ability to circle the courthouse square in a counterclockwise direction gave some relief.  Parking space was lost when the DOT changed the angle of parking and marked the spaces. The city added four policemen to the department. One was assigned to monitor parking in the shopping area. Major traffic flow as set by the DOT remained unchanged. Howell and Franklin streets were made one-way. In August, it was announced that voters would again vote on a 1% special local option sales tax to fund the construction of a new jail. At the same election they would vote on a general 1% sales tax. The tax for the jail would be in effect only until funds collected were enough to finance construction. The general 1% sales tax would be used to roll back property taxes. Both taxes were approved by the voters and were to go in effect in April of 1991.

Hartwell men and women in the Armed Forces participated in Operation Desert Shield and then later Operation Desert Storm to rescue the country of Kuwait from invasion by Iraq. Thankfully, this time there were no casualties from the city or county. In October, the VFW post dedicated a flag to all those on active military duty. Mayor Pro Tempore George Rooks gave the dedication address as the American Legion dedicated a new memorial on the courthouse square to those servicemen killed in WWII and the Korean War.

In the December city election Mayor Saliba was elected for her fourth term. During her terms of office Mayor Saliba had, with the cooperation of council members, secured more than twenty grants totaling more than 4.8 million dollars. Council member Rooks and Council member Mayfield were also re-elected. The other members of the council in 1990 were Herbert Maret, George Hubbard, Ray Boleman and Ed Weaver.

Future years would see more problems and more solutions. Hartwell and Hart County would continue industrial and business growth. Hartwell would remain "the best city by a dam site"!

The text above was taken from “A Brief History of Hartwell” written by local historian, George Rooks, Jr.

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Jan 25, 2015