SUMMERVILLE, Ga. — Carlton Reynolds was born in 1937, the year that a New Deal-era post office was built in downtown Summerville.
His parents were born in 1909, the year the Chattooga County Courthouse was constructed in downtown Summerville.
So Reynolds was happy to hear that a roughly eight-block section that includes the domed courthouse and cupola-topped post office recently was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Summerville Commercial Historic District.
“I’m not hard to please,” he admitted while walking along the town’s Commerce Street on Thursday afternoon. “But I’m proud of our little town.”
The historic district’s collection of mostly one- and two-story brick buildings built between the 1890s and 1950s made the list because “it’s a good example of a Georgia county seat,” said Gretchen Brock of Georgia’s Historic Preservation Division. “It’s just an excellent collection of historic buildings.”
Among the standouts in Summerville listed by the state agency are the two-story “Arrington,” constructed in 1894 on the corner of Commerce and West Washington St. The vacant building features brick pilasters — rectangular columns that project slightly from its walls — and other intricate brickwork.
Members of the Summerville Better Hometown Program, the Chattooga County Historical Society and consultant Bamby Ray wrote an extensive history of the downtown as part of the application for the historic designation, said Nell Farrar, who helped spearhead the designation.
The designation doesn’t restrict building owners’ property rights, but tax credits may be available to owners who follow historic guidelines, she said.
Famed attorney Bobby Lee Cook, who is said to be the inspiration for the TV character “Matlock,” has had an office in Summerville since 1949.
“It was a very active business community at that time. No one knew Walmart would be the behemoth that it’s become,” Cook said.
He was delighted to hear about historic designation and recently donated property downtown for use as a public space. But Cook doesn’t think Commerce Street will bustle like it once did.
“I don’t think you can turn the clock back,” he said. “You might liven up the downtown, some. The habits of people have changed.”
Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.