Newnan sign pays tribute to its history of homes

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Newnan sign pays tribute to its history of homes

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Caption: The City of Homes sign hangs from the top of the Newnan Carnegie Library building in downtown Newnan. Credit: City of Newnan

Q: Why is there a sign in downtown Newnan that calls it The City of Homes?

A: The City of Homes sign, which hangs at the top of the Newnan Carnegie Library downtown, is a reference to the city’s most famous nickname and a nod to its reputation for having beautiful, well-preserved homes.

The phrase is frequently used as a both a formal and informal title, with “City of Homes” even appearing on the city’s official crest.

It’s unknown exactly when Newnan was dubbed the City of Homes, but a city spokesperson says the Carnegie Library sign dates back at least to the 1920s.

Newnan works hard to live up to its moniker, and the government and private owners have protected and refurbished a number of Newnan’s most charming buildings, including more than 40 recognized historic structures in the town’s six historic districts.

Rhodes Shell, a Newnan city councilman who has lived in the town for most of his life, says these well-maintained homes have been a local trademark for decades.

“It was always that way when I was a kid,” Shell said. “When you came into town, there were several really nice houses. That’s the first impression you got.”

Many of these homes pre-date the Civil War, when the railway came to the area and new people and businesses began moving in. In 1860, Newnan had a population of just 946 people, but these residents had already begun to build large, spacious houses in the area surrounding the town courthouse. During the war, Sherman’s March to the Sea destroyed cities across the state, but Newnan — removed from the general’s path between Atlanta and Savannah — remained unharmed.

“My mother always said Sherman [intentionally] didn’t burn the homes,” Shell said. “But the main reason they were preserved is just that Sherman never came this way.”

After the war ended, Newnan returned to business and worked to rebuild the town’s pre-war economic prosperity. From the 1880s to the early 1900s, the R.D. Cole Manufacturing Co. became the city’s main construction firm, and was responsible for most of the houses built during this time, according to the city of Newnan’s website.

While some of these buildings have taken on second lives as museums and funeral homes, Shell says the majority of the town’s historic homes are still private residences. The councilman says some of the descendents of the R.D. Cole Co.’s owners are still living in the houses their family built more than a century ago.

However, this doesn’t mean visitors aren’t able to experience the City of Homes in its fullest beauty. The Coweta County Convention and Visitors Bureau offers a self-guided tour featuring 50 of Newnan’s preserved houses, all of which are within walking distance of the Coweta County Historic Courthouse.

Visitors interested in taking the tour can pick up a brochure from the visitors center inside the courthouse, which — if you’re looking for a good photo op — also happens to be located diagonally across the street from the City of Homes sign.

If you’re new in town or have questions about this special place we call home, ask us! E-mail q&a@ajc.com or call 404-222-2002.

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