Many communities in the mountains have a small hometown feel, but Clarkesville, Georgia, has a unique rural character, with rich history and friendly people.
Founded in 1818, Clarkesville is one of the most historic towns in northeast Georgia, and was named after General John C. Clarke, governor of Georgia from 1819 – 1821, and his father, General Elijah Clarke, a revolutionary war hero. It was chartered in 1823 as the county seat of Habersham County and was the first of the major resort towns with wealthy families escaping the heat of the coasts of South Carolina and Georgia.
At one time, downtown Clarkesville had hotels for tourists which have now been replaced with quaint shops, galleries and restaurants for visitors. Long before Clarkesville became a tourist spot, Cherokee and Creek Indian Nations inhabited the area.
Habersham County was officially chartered in 1818 and named for Joseph Habersham, a Revolutionary War hero and the first Postmaster General under President John Quincy Adams. His summer home, which is one of the oldest homes in the county, can still be seen on Highway 441 north of Clarkesville.
After the charter was granted in 1823, the city was surveyed and laid out. Streets were named for presidents Washington, Jefferson, Madison and Monroe, and for Benjamin Franklin and Generals Greene, Wayne and Marion of the American Revolution. The Court House was a small wooden building that was located on the Public Square, with a log jail. When a brick court house was built, in 1832, the old building was moved down to the livery stable.
During the Civil War in the 1860’s, almost 1,000 men from the county fought for the Confederacy and contributed cannons made by Habersham Iron Works Manufacturing and which can still be seen today at the Chickamauga National Battlegrounds.
The early 1870’s were slow but reconstruction progressed as The Southern Railway was built in 1873. Although travelers got to the city by stagecoach from Athens to Clarkesville, the trains became a popular method of transportation, and in 1910, a street car, running between the Clarkesville Train Depot and the Square, carried visitors to and from the center of town. A paved road from Clarkesville to Cornelia in 1924 became the first paved road north of Atlanta and increased visitors to the area.
The famous Tallulah Falls Railroad also ran for many years to and from neighboring Tallulah Gorge, which was known for its spectacular waterfalls, and that helped to increase the area’s popularity as a summer destination.
Today, you can start your visit with the Mauldin House, at the corner of E. Waters & Jefferson Street. This large Victorian cottage and adjacent millinery shop date from the late nineteenth century. It serves as Clarkesville’s Welcome Center and the beginning of a walking tour of the Greek, Gothic, Victorian, & Plantation style homes in this beautiful historical district.
Visit the Grace Calvary Episcopal Church built in 1842. The building features over 42 hand-blown glass windows, straight-backed box pews, and a pipe organ which is the oldest working church instrument in Georgia.
The Gloaming Cottage was built in 1840 by Jarvis Van Buren, the first cousin of President Martin Van Buren, as his personal residence. Included in the projects that he built in 1848 is the First Presbyterian Church on N. Washington Street. This Greek Revival style church is just one of the many significant preserved properties that are featured on tour.
Whether you are walking downtown, shopping for antiques or visiting the neighboring Sam Pitts Park beside the beautiful Soque River, you will be relaxed. Travel off the beaten path and drive Scenic 197 where you will often see trout fishing. The Batesville area has numerous galleries of regional handmade arts and crafts. Experience a beautiful drive following the Soque River and its waterfalls or camp at Moccasin Creek State Park or nearby Unicoi.
Where ever you decide to stay in Clarkesville, you’ll experience fine dining and local entertainment. Annual events include the Mountain Laurel Festival in May and the Taste of Clarkesville in September featuring great area restaurant cuisine.
So, whether you decide to stay at a cozy bed-and-breakfast or a comfortable cabin, we welcome you to experience our friendly Southern Hospitality.