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Kennesaw City


Kennesaw City Hall is located at 2529 J. O. Stephenson Avenue, Kennesaw, GA 30144; phone: 770-424-8274.

Beginnings [1]

During the 1840s and 1850s, the Western and Atlantic Railroad was constructed through the Kennesaw area. Irish railroad-construction laborers built shelters called "shanties" nearby, hence "Big Shanty," Kennesaw's first designation. Big Shanty officially became "Kennesaw" when the town was incorporated in the 1870s, farms gave way to town streets and lots, a railroad-owned two-story frame hotel was constructed just west of the railroad, and a cotton gin and warehouse facility east of the railroad flourished. A freight station and a railroad wayside dining and lodging facility called the Lacy Hotel were soon constructed. Early in this period, a regular stagecoach route was established connecting Cassville (county seat of Bartow, then Cass County) with Marietta and Decatur (DeKalb County) via the Peachtree Trail which by the 1840s was called the Cassville Road. Other wagon roads at this time included the Roswell Factory Road and the Shiloh Church-Canton Road.

The period 1861-1865 was dominated by military events of the American Civil War. The Western and Atlantic Railroad became a vital transportation artery for the Confederacy, and Camp McDonald, a major training center for Georgia soldiers, was established west of the railroad in the approximate location of the commercial district today. Freight sheds and other warehousing facilities of a temporary nature were erected near the camp on both sides of the railroad. Camp McDonald was abandoned as a Confederate, military training site in 1863, and the United States military forces destroyed the railroad, the freight sheds, and the Lacy Hotel in November, 1864.

In the period immediately following the Civil War, the railroad was rebuilt, a combined passenger and freight depot was constructed east of the tracks, a new cotton gin was built near the ruins of the Lacy Hotel, and another cotton gin was constructed north of Cherokee Street (Shiloh Church-Canton Road) just across the street from a blacksmith shop. Land west of the railroad (located on a portion of the wartime site of Camp McDonald) developed into the principal commercial area, which included, by the turn of the century, a two-story frame hotel, a three-story brick Masonic Hall, a brick structure nearby used as a bank, and several smaller brick and frame structures facing east toward the railroad. Most of the historic residential development in Kennesaw also took place during these years. Small Victorian cottages and larger turn-of-the-century houses were built in and around downtown and along the principal highways leading out of town. Modest Victorian farmsteads were also established further along the outlying highways and especially to the northeast of the town center.

Between 1910 and 1930, Kennesaw reached its economic peak, which was followed by slow decline. While revenues from the Western and Atlantic Railroad throughout this period remained satisfactory overall, the village of Kennesaw failed to keep pace. Economic stagnation produced no major changes in the visual pattern of the streetscape during this period, with the exception of a few new bungalows and flapper-style cottages and, of course, the appearance of the automobile. Some structural deterioration of existing buildings began to appear in the village.

After 1930, Kennesaw suffered marked economic decline, despite the new Dixie Highway for motor vehicles which passed directly through town along the old Cassville Road. The Dixie Highway was superseded in the 1950s by a new four-lane highway which bypassed the town on the west. This was followed by cotton-crop failures and the closing of the town bank and the last remaining cotton gin between 1948 and 1952. After this, structures in the commercial area deteriorated noticeably, and several were razed, including the railroad hotel on the west side of the tracks. Beginning in the 1960s, Kennesaw experienced some of the impact of the growth of metropolitan Atlanta, characterized locally by several large new residential subdivisions near and in town, a number of smaller commercial enterprises, especially along the four-lane highway, and a small airport southwest of the town.

  1. Philip Lee Secrist, consultant, City of Kennesaw and Richard Clouse, architectural historian, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Historic Preservation Section, Kennesaw Multiple Resource Area, nomination document, nomination document, 1979, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, NR# 64000134, Washington, D.C.
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