Cobb decides what counts as the real Vinings

Homeowners in the quaint south Cobb County community are tired of developers far and wide misappropriating the name of their neighborhood and diluting the unique Vinings cachet.

“The name has been used and hijacked from here to Alabama,” said Shane Coldren, president of the Vinings Homeowners Association.

Residents want to cut down on what they see as “identity theft,” with developers cashing in on the prestigious Vinings name on subdivisions that are not remotely near Vinings.

Cobb County helped Vinings shore up its territory this month by designating the core of downtown Vinings, a few blocks north and south of Paces Ferry Road and Paces Mill Road, as “Historic Vinings Village.” The village area is located generally between the CSX railroad tracks on the west and Stillhouse Road on the east.

The moniker is now part of the official Cobb County comprehensive plan, which influences future land use decisions. Furthermore, Vinings homeowners intend to ask the state to trademark “Historic Vinings Village,” Coldren said, to cut down on copy-cats. Vinings is part of unincorporated Cobb County and therefore has no concrete boundaries, like a city.

“It absolutely is needed,” said Tony Doyle, a third-generation Vinings resident and a former investment banker who has written about the area’s history.

“Vinings is just like many other areas in Cobb County and around Atlanta,” Doyle said. “They have developed so fast, what was history was pretty much destroyed in the process.”

“There are no historical markers except for a couple that indicate Civil War activity,” he said.

Vinings was named after a young engineer from Delaware, William H. Vining, who constructed a series of railroad trestles over a curve in Vinings Mountain around 1839-1840, Doyle said.

The 26-year-old needed construction materials and workers would say, “Go drop this off at Vining’s station, on the railroad,” Doyle said.

Vining only stayed a year or two. Later he joined the Union Army, Doyle said. That might not be too hard for most Vinings residents to swallow.

“They’re all from the North,” Doyle chuckled.

The newly designated village area includes historic buildings like the Pace House, named after Hardy Pace, a pioneer who operated a ferry across the Chattahoochee, hence the name of the road, Paces Ferry.

Pace established a settlement in the 1830s that included a grist mill, an inn and a post office. The Pace House made it onto the National Register of Historic Places last year.

The village area also includes the intersection of Paces Ferry Road and Paces Mill Road, near the Vinings Jubliee shopping center and the Vinings Inn.

The crossroads is what really started as Vinings, Coldren said, “before the name got ripped off and used for marketing purposes.”

The new designation should lead to a master plan for upgrades to Vinings, like decorative street lamps and street signs that promote the area’s historic character, and perhaps traffic-calming devices. The homeowners association opposes any idea of widening Paces Ferry Road, Coldren said.

Already, a traffic signal mast arm, scheduled to be replaced at the village’s main intersection, will be more decorative. The homeowners association plans to pay the county about $8,000 to upgrade the standard galvanized steel traffic post for one with a classy black finish, county officials said.

“They don’t want to lose what everybody thinks of as Vinings,” said County Commissioner Bob Ott, who represents the area. “They’re trying to give Vinings an identity. They’re trying to brand Vinings.”

Similar attempts at neighborhood planning are afoot near Powers Ferry Road, Johnson Ferry Road in east Cobb, and Atlanta Road and South Cobb Drive, Ott said.

Development has slowed during the recession, giving neighborhoods an opportunity to create a plan for how they want development to proceed, Ott said.

In Vinings, that could mean new rules to limit the razing of homes and the division of residential lots to keep the density at its present level, which would prevent commerce from encroaching on residential areas, Coldren said.

The homeowners association is trying to raise about $50,000 to $60,000 to create a master plan, Coldren said. It’s interviewing firms for the job now, he said.

What will all the effort lead to?

For Doyle the historian, the plan could breathe some bohemian appeal into Vinings by bringing to light the details of its transformational history from an Indian settlement to a railroad stop to home of the late Nellie Mae Rowe, daughter of a former slave and one of the most recognized Georgia folk artists. Her paintings are on exhibit at the High Museum of Art and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

“I call her the ‘Vinings Elvis.’ On a national basis, she is the most recognized person from that small community,” Doyle said.

“Vinings has been sanitized by development,” he said. “It’s only seen as a high-end residential community. If you give it character, if you give it color, it becomes vibrant.”

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