Find Depth in Helen Culture
Arts and Culture in Helen
Pottery’s Humble Beginnings to National Star
Georgia’s pottery history had very humble beginnings. The potters were in business to provide farmers, as well as their own families, with jugs to store whiskey or cane syrup, churns to make butter or buttermilk, jars to preserve vegetables, fruit and meat, earthenware and stoneware. By the Depression, prohibition had cut the demand for jugs, glass containers were cheaper and cash was hard to come by. The Meaders pottery turned to producing pottery for tourists that allowed for an artistic and imaginative vision in shapes and themes. Today North Georgia Pottery is nationally known and the Meaders family was honored with a special event at the Library of Congress when a Smithsonian Institute film was released about their pottery. The heritage of the Meaders and other historic potters is showcased at the Folk Pottery Museum, where you can also see exhibits of contemporary potters.
Step Back in Time at Hardman Farm
Along the banks of the Chattahoochee River in the Nacoochee Valley is the historic 173-acre Hardman Farm. Now part of the state parks system, the property includes a stunning Italianate villa and 17 historic farm buildings. Probably the most historically prominent piece of the property is the famed ancient Indian mound topped by a gazebo. The house, built in 1870, opened for tours in 2014. The furnishings are representative of the 1920’s when the land was a working dairy farm owned by a former governor of Georgia. Visitors can stroll the grounds and peek into the dairy barn where they will learn how milk was processed and transported. The horse barn and a spring house are open as well. Special events like the Unicoi Wine Festival, Ghost Legends of the Valley during Halloween, Fall Celebration, a Victorian Christmas, book signings and lectures are all part of the activities at the farm.
And So the Story Goes
Author Matt Gedney ‘s family came to North Georgia in search of gold. While not particularly successful, they did discover a love for the mountains that has stretched through six generations. His two books, Living on the Unicoi Road and The Story of Helen, Georgia tell the history of the area from the pioneers to the rebirth of the town as an Alpine village. Living on the Unicoi Road travels through three centuries from Indians and traders to modern day life. The Story of Helen, Georgia is its companion book, giving an account of how a boomtown became a popular resort town. It goes into detail about the life story of the town’s namesake. Both books are available on Amazon. If you can’t stop reading, check The Images of America Series book entitled Helen for an illustrative history of the area with photographs of the mill era and reinvention of the town as an Alpine village.
Native Americans to Alpine Village
Maps as early as 1693 show Creek Indians living in the Sautee Nacoochee Valley, but pre-historic settlers called the area their home much earlier. By 1828 their rich history, along with that of Spanish explorers and the Creek and the Cherokee nations gives way to the gold rushers. The huge number of settlers quickly established towns, including Helen, which remained a mining center throughout the Civil War. By the beginning of the 20th century Helen was a logging town until the Great Depression closed the main sawmill. The town continued a slow decline through the 1960’s. Two businessmen wanted to revitalize Helen and hired a local artist with German roots to redesign the buildings to resemble an Alpine village, even changing the street names. Nestled in the mountains alongside the Chattahoochee River, millions come every year to enjoy Helen’s festivals, authentic German chefs and unique charm.