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Athens travel guide — Athens tourism and travel information

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about Athens

Athens or Athens-Clarke County is a city located in Clarke County, Georgia, in the northeastern part of the state, located just off of Georgia 316. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 100,266, although this does not include all of the college students with temporary residences. It is home to the University of Georgia, a major educational institution in the South and a football powerhouse in the Southeastern Conference. The city was particularly known for its music scene in the 1980s, being home to such bands as R.E.M., The B-52's, and Widespread Panic.

Athens geography

According to the United States Census Bureau, the balance has a total area of 306.2 km² (118.2 mi²). 305.0 km² (117.8 mi²) of it is land and 1.2 km² (0.5 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 0.41% water.

Athens history

In the late 1700s, a trading settlement on the banks of the Oconee River called Cedar Shoals stood where Athens is located today. On January 27, 1785, the Georgia General Assembly granted a charter by Abraham Baldwin for the University of Georgia as the first state-supported university. Sixteen years later, in 1801, a committee from the university's board of trustees selected a site for the university on a hill above Cedar Shoals in what was then Jackson County. John Milledge, one of the trustees and later governer of Georgia, bought 633 acres (2.6 km²) from Daniel Easley on July 25, 1801, donated it to the university. Milledge named the surrounding area Athens after the city that was home to the academy of Plato and Aristotle in ancient Greece.

The first building built was named Franklin College in honor of Ben Franklin and is now called Old College. The town grew as lots adjacent to the college were sold to raise money for the additional construction of the school. By by the time first class graduated from the University in 1804, Athens consisted of three homes, three stores and a few other buildings facing Front Street, now known as Broad Street.

Athens officially became a town in December 1806 with a government made up of a three-member commission. The university continued to grow, but so did the town, with cotton mills fueling the industrial and commercial development. Athens became known as the "Manchester of the South" after the city in England known for its mills. In 1841, railroad lines were laid through Athens, expanding the commercial development and connecting the city with Atlanta to the south and Greenville, South Carolina to the north.

During the American Civil War, William T. Sherman's Union army concentrated on Atlanta, cutting off the rail lines to prevent Athens from resupplying the besieged city. After burning Atlanta, the Union army largely ignored Athens in the March to the Sea, instead turning southeast to Savannah, Georgia.

After the Civil War, the city became known as a center of undergraduate education for freed slaves. Funds from the Athens Freedman's Bureau built the Knox School in 1867, while later the Methodist School and Jeruel Academy also opened to educate freed slaves. All three schools offered primary, intermediate, industrial, and nurses' training. African-Americans also had a strong presence through the press during this time with three black newspapers - the Athens Blade, the Athens Clipper, and the Progressive Era - in a time when it was rare for a southern town to have even one.

Athens was eventually chartered as a city on August 24, 1872 with a mayor-council form of government. Captain Henry Beusse was the first mayor of Athens, and the citizens elected two representatives from each of four wards to serve on the commission.

As the post-Civil War population began to rise, so did city improvements. The first police force of three officers was established in 1881. Bell Telephone installed lines for thirty-five subscribers in 1882 and in 1885 a street-paving program began to replace dirt streets with brick, granite and, in some cases, wood. However, Athens did not provide public schools until fall 1886, more than a decade after the more rural Clarke County. The entire area did boast more than thirty private day schools of varying sizes by as early as 1869.

In 1888, Athens saw its first passenger streetcars powered by mules. Broad, College, Clayton, Lumpkin, Hancock, Pulaski, Prince, and Milledge Streets had rails laid for the cars. After a few years, E.G. Harris bought the streetcar line and extended and electrified the rails. A new residential development north of Prince Avenue was purchased and lots were sold for houses in Athens' first "streetcar subdivision" along Boulevard.

In the early 1900’s, the corner of Washington and Lumpkin Streets became known as the "Hot Corner" for the black community. The Morton Building, as well as the Samaritan Building and Union Hall, housed black lawyers, dentists, doctors and other professionals. There were also poolrooms, lodge halls, barbershops, insurance companies, and two undertakers. The two-story opera house in the Morton Building, known for its amazing acoustics, hosted such popular black entertainers as Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, and Duke Ellington. Movies and other celebrations were also held in the theatre.

A new City Hall was constructed for the city in 1904 on the highest point in the downtown business district. Soon after, in 1908, the Southern Mutual Insurance Company completed the city’s first skyscraper - a seven-story building that was the largest ferro concrete building in the South.

By 1923, Athens was establishing itself as a leader in the cotton industry. The Chamber of Commerce reported that in that year, Athens was the second largest cotton manufacturer in the state and the city stayed as such through 1950. Five rail lines came into town, and Athens also became an important center for wholesale grocers.

During World War II, Athens was named as one of only five naval preflight schools in the nation. Thousands of young military men filled the city while the navy helped build several new buildings and recreational facilities on campus and give the airport its first paved runways.

Desegregation marked 1961 as Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton Holmes became the first two black students to enter the University of Georgia in early January. By the time of their graduation in 1963, Athens’ city limits incorporated thirteen square miles. Suburban sprawl hit the area, along with urban renewal. A number of historic properties were saved from demolition during this time, including the oldest residence in Athens, as historic preservation became more prominent. This trend would continue through today.

Beginning in the late 1970s, the Athens music scene began to gather momentum, eventually leading to the city’s worldwide recognition as a hotbed for music. Bands such as R.E.M. and the B-52's became wildly popular throughout the 1980s while scores of smaller bands continued to perform in the myriad of Athens clubs on a nightly basis.

After unification with Clarke County was approved, Mayor Dwain Chambers became the last person to hold the title of Mayor of the City of Athens from 1989-1991.

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Athens, Georgia".

This city is also known as: Athens.

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