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Elberton home believed to have special holiday connection

Q: I heard that Elberton has a Christmas tree house. Is it shaped like a tree, or is there another reason why it has that name?

A: The two-story “Christmas Tree House” in this northeast Georgia town looks nothing like its namesake, yet it’s believed to be where the Christmas tree tradition first sprouted in Georgia.

“It’s about 150 years old, and it’s supposedly where the Christmas tree decoration custom was brought (to Georgia) by the people living here,” said David Powell, owner of LandMark Realty and the house.

In 1858, German immigrant and cabinet maker George Loehr built the house on what is now Elberton’s Heard Street, where the Loehr family displayed a candle-lit Christmas tree, a German tradition until that point, shortly after having their first child, according to the historical marker in front of the home.

Joyce Davis, Elberton resident and professor emeritus of art at Valdosta State University, detailed the house’s history in an Elbert County Chamber of Commerce article and provided the text for the historical marker.

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As the family had more children, Loehr placed handmade wooden toys beneath the tree and built a small fence to keep the children away from the candles. The Loehrs sold the home in 1875 and for the next century, it served as residence for other Elberton citizens before the Elbert County Historical Society leased the home.

Davis said the Loehrs’ grandchildren witnessed the tradition take root. They heard stories of how the Loehr children played with the toys under the tree each Christmas, and how the practice “spread throughout the state in a very short period of time,” Davis wrote.

In addition to writing the article, Davis, who is active in the Elbert County Historical Society, drew a picture of the house to serve as decor for Elberton’s Samuel Elbert Hotel.

In 1990, Powell bought the house for his LandMark Realty office. Despite its reputation, the house does not bring much tourism to the area.

“We have a few people stop by sometimes to see the granite plaque that the historical society put up, but that’s it,” Powell said.

Elberton is better known for its igneous rock. Billed as the “Granite Capital of the World,” the town is home to the Elberton Granite Museum and Exhibit and the Georgia Guidestones.

The Elberton Granite Association, the largest body of granite quarriers and manufacturers in the country, says the city sits upon a granite deposit that is around 35 miles long, 6 miles wide and at least 2 miles deep.

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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