Clarkesville, the county seat of Habersham, received its charter in 1823. The city was named for Gen. John C. Clarke, governor of Georgia in 1819 and 1821, and son of  Gen. Elijah Clarke, a Revolutionary War hero.

Long before Clarkesville was known as a tourist spot for Georgia, Cherokee Indians inhabited the area. Around 1540 Spanish explorer De Soto was thought to have passed through what would become the City of Clarkesville. It would be many years later, but still long before Clarkesville was created, that white settlers begin living in the area. 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.

Clarkesville later became known as a major resort town of Northeast Georgia, with wealthy families (known as “lowlanders”) escaping the heat and malaria of the coasts of South Carolina and Georgia venturing north for the milder summers of Clarkesville.

At one time, downtown Clarkesville was sprinkled with hotels for these tourists. Soon the visitors were building fine homes in the area, many of which are still standing today. Early transportation for the “lowlanders” included a street car, buggies and surreys. In 1920 Clarkesville began plans to pave the road through downtown from Cornelia.  This project took four years and is known as the first paved road north of Atlanta.

Life in Clarkesville centered around the square, with women shopping, and men gathering to talk about business and politics. Celebrations for Fourth of July, Christmas and May Day were held annually in the city square. In the mid-1960s the idea to hold an annual community festival and parade was born. The Mountain Laurel Festival, deemed the oldest arts and crafts festival of its kind in Georgia, celebrates its 56th year in 2018.

The Historic Mauldin House serves as the city visitor center and contains a plethora of area information, guides and historic documents.

Gone are the hotels, but life in Clarkesville still represents the same peaceful respite of earlier years and remains a gentle, friendly place. Clarkesville continues the tradition of comradery and celebration through its downtown events and activities. With dozens of restaurants, shops and art galleries, Clarkesville remains a vibrant, thriving community.

Suggested links:

Clarkesville Website
Clarkesville Historic Walking Tour
Historic Clarkesville Photography
Downtown Clarkesville Visitors Guide
City of Clarkesville Facebook Page

More historic photos can be seen below: