13 Aug Discovering Main Street America in South Atlanta Metro
The Main street and the town square is a common thread throughout modern civilization- whether its Europe, Africa, or North America. Before social media, television, radio, or even the telephone, Main street, and the town square was the place you heard and shared the news. It was a gathering place- to celebrate victories, mourn defeats, pay tribute, protest equality, or demand justice.
The Main street will always have staples: A county courthouse, a town hall, a couple of churches, a police station, a library, a bookstore, a general store, a tavern, a couple of restaurants, maybe a movie theatre, ice cream parlor/bakery, and a hairdresser/barber. A railroad station connected it to the rest of the state and the country and would be important to this area’s growth immensely. The town square was the center of it all. Savannah, for example, has 22 of these squares in its historic district alone.
These Main streets have witnessed Jim Crow, a depression, two world wars, the civil rights movement, urban renewal, multiple recessions with industrial economic decline, swings in tourism, and recently a pandemic. The resilience and fortitude of some of these small business owners are inspiring, and I’m sure your patronage would be greatly appreciated.
The Main streets listed below are located in our area of the south suburbs of North Georgia. However, around the Atlanta Metro- Marietta, Roswell, Alpharetta, Norcross, Covington, College Park, Hapeville, Fairburn, and Newnan has strong commercial main streets with a small-town feel.
In our own backyard is Downtown Jonesboro, with the historic Clayton County Courthouse, which looks like a college campus. Jonesboro is also the setting for the novel Gone with the Wind. The fictional Tara is based on Stately Oaks also in Jonesboro. The Road to Tara Museum details the whole process of making Gone with the Wind (book & movie) with artifacts. It is next to the Clayton County visitor’s center, which is housed in Jonesboro’s old train depot. Fig Tree Cafe is a nice place to get a cup of coffee and pastry or sandwich to rest. Next door, pick up gifts at Simple Pleasures Gifts & Fudge.
This Main street is a great example of how important the railroad was to develop an area. The Hampton Depot (still standing) opened in 1881 and served passengers for 76 years. It was the only rail stop in the county for years. Hampton’s Main street only stretches 3 blocks, but visit the Speakeasy Bookstore for interesting finds.
Probably is the most historic of all the squares on this list due to the number of buildings that have been preserved or restored. This includes the Henry county courthouse, Brown Hotel, Palace Theatre, Globe Hotel, First Baptist Church of McDonough, and a standard oil gas station from 1920 that serves as a welcome center. Highlights on the square including Planter’s Antique Mall (you could be here ALL day), Story on the Square Bookstore, Cowboys General Western Store (if you want the boots, hat, whole outfit). For eating options, check out Gritz diner for breakfast, Southern Roots for lunch, and Scoops McDonough for dessert.
The centerpiece of Fayetteville is the Fayette County Courthouse from 1825. Olde Courthouse Tavern is a good stop to grab a beer. Twisted Taco next door has the kitschy atmosphere of having your burrito and margarita in a jail cell. Behind both of them is the Holliday-Dorsey-Fife House, which was a doctor’s office in the pre-civil war period. It is now open as a museum. Heritage Park is on the southwest corner of State Route 85 and 54. It is the scene of every Hallmark movie typesetting from Christmas tree markets, pumpkin patches, mother’s day flowers, etc. On Friday nights during the summer, there is a concert series at 7 p.m. with different genres highlighted weekly.
The seat of Spaulding county, 25 minutes south of Jonesboro. The district is roughly bounded by Central Alley, Sixth, Taylor, and Eighth Streets. Highlights include the Griffin City Hall, The Odd Fellows Hall, which was an opera house, and the Griffin Hotel. A tavern and museum dedicated to Doc Holliday, who was an associate to lawman Wyatt Earp and involved in the infamous Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Stores of interest are the Record Heaven Pro Sound (a musical instrument shop) and Rustic Lantern ( a Homegoods store)
Note: COVID-19 restrictions and guidelines could alter any or all of the above information- check with the attraction’s website and local state and county officials on any ordinances or mandates.