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Streetcars in Gainesville

Streetcar on Washington Street in Gainesville

Streetcar on Washington Street in Gainesville.

The Gainesville & Hall County Street Railroad Company, incorporated in 1885, was the first successful street railway in the city. By 1890, it operated a 2.5-mile line using 8 mules and 5 cars. Within a few years, its total length had doubled to 5 miles (although the company reported using somewhat less power and rolling stock: only 7 horses and 3 cars).

Poors Manual of 1903 indicated that the company had again doubled its mileage, to 10, and had come under the ownership of the Gainesville & Dahlonega Electric Railway Company. 10 motor cars were listed as assets.

Incorporated in June 1901, the Gainesville & Dahlonega Electric Railway Company was headed by A.J. Warner, a former Union general and Ohio congressman who had moved to Georgia a couple of years earlier. Along with the G&DER, Warner also established the North Georgia Electric Company in 1902 to build hydroelectric plants on nearby rivers such as the Chattahoochee and the Chestatee. These would provide power for lighting, street railways, and other purposes in the region.

The "Dahlonega" part of the electric railway company's name was a result of Warner's collaboration with Dahlonega lawyer and former congressman William P. Price. The goal was to restart the unbuilt Gainesville & Dahlonega Railroad project, this time using electricity instead of steam. In 1903 the Commercial & Financial Chronicle described the Gainesville & Dahlonega Electric Railway:

"A trolley run between Gainesville and Dahlonega, a distance of 27 miles, with a branch of 7 miles in Gainesville and to cotton mills, a total of 34 miles. The track (7 miles) in Gainesville, and between Gainesville and New Holland is completed, and remainder is expected to be completed during 1903."

It was not to be, however. In 1905 the Electrical Review reported that the Gainesville & Dahlonega Electric Railway "has conveyed to the Gainesville, Dahlonega & Northern Railway the right of way and roadbed from Gainesville to Dahlonega." It also "conveyed to the Gainesville Electric Railway Company all the street railway constructed and completed in Gainesville, and in Hall County, Georgia, and the electric plant on the Chestatee River, together with its dam, pole-line, substations and other property, including franchises."

A Gainesville streetcar on the Green Street line

A Gainesville streetcar on the Green Street line.

Although the line to Dahlonega was never built, Gainesville's streetcars continued operating under Warner's Gainesville Electric Railway Company. Power was provided by the Chestatee plant, completed in 1902, at a place called New Bridge.

From the city center, cars ran south down Main Street to the railroad depot, east to the mill village at New Holland, and north up Green Street. From there, they ran on a route that later became Riverside Drive to Lake Warner, which was created in 1904 when the North Georgia Electric Company constructed a dam at Dunlap Shoals on the Chattahoochee River, 3 miles north of town.

The timber crib dam at Dunlap Shoals was about 1000 feet west of Chattahoochee Park. An electrical substation now stands next to the site.

On the hillside overlooking the lake, the company developed Chattahoochee Park, a recreational resort with boating, picnicking, dancing, and other amusements for streetcar patrons. Nearly all cities large enough for a street railway had such parks, often at the end of a line, and Gainesville was no exception.

In the 1908 issue of McGraw's Electric Railway Manual, the street railway was reported to be an 8-mile operation with 11 cars. A. J. Warner was still listed as president of the Gainesville Electric Railway Company, but not as president of the North Georgia Electric Company. Wade Wright* explains what happened:

"In 1907, the (North Georgia Electric) Company defaulted on the payment of interest on two issues of bonds; and at the annual stockholders' meeting in May, General Warner retired as president.
D. M. Stewart was elected to succeed him...."

The Gainesville Electric Railway was sold under foreclosure in 1909 and reorganized as the Gainesville Railway & Power Company. The new company reported 6 miles of track with 7 motor cars and 4 other cars.

A major change would take place again in 1916, when the Georgia Railway & Power Company purchased the Gainesville Railway & Power Company. The street railway system was sold to a wholly owned subsidiary, the Gainesville Railway Company. This company would later be sold at public auction.

The city's streetcar system closed down in 1925.

* Wade H. Wright. History of the Georgia Power Company 1855-1956.
Atlanta: Georgia Power Co., 1957.

The Riverside Drive streetcar line ended near this pavilion, built in the early 1900s in the former Chattahoochee Park, on the shores of Lake Warner. The property is now part of American Legion Post 7.

Location of dam, Lake Warner, and streetcar park, about 3 miles north of downtown Gainesville. Lake Lanier now covers part of this area.
From:Soil Survey, Hall County, Georgia. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Surveyed in 1936-37. Online at Digital Library of Georgia.

From: B. M. Hall and M. R. Hall. Third Report on the Water Powers of Georgia. Atlanta: Geological Survey of Georgia, 1921.

From: B. M. Hall and M. R. Hall. Third Report on the Water Powers of Georgia. Atlanta: Geological Survey of Georgia, 1921.

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Photo of Gainesville streetcar at Georgia's Railroad History & Heritage. © Steve Storey

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