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Nov 05


Posted on November 5, 2020 at 3:46 PM by Allison Duncan

The Highway 78 Corridor is a timeline.  The imprint of changes in community development trends for the last 200 years have been stamped along the corridor.  Many tangible reminders of that history are embodied in the physical infrastructure and built environment that we largely take for granted today.  But these changes have created the framework of our modern moment.  And before we advance to the next phase in corridor development, we may benefit by looking at what has gotten us to this place. 

The milestones in this timeline are categorized into six drivers of change. 

  • The Post Offices (1850s to 1900s).  The US Postal Service was established in 1775.  The presence of a community post office was a marker of place.  Wherever there was a post office there was a presence – a community that needed to be connected to the greater country.  The Salt Springs Post Office was established in 1849.  Salt Springs would eventually become the city of Lithia Springs.  The Douglasville Post Office was established in 1873, and the Winston Post Office was established in 1903.  As communities spread east to west in the country, so did communities develop east to west along the Highway 78 Corridor.
  • The Railroads (1870s to 1920s). The railroad roughly parallels the roadway of Highway 78.  The right of way for the Georgia Wester Railroad was acquired in the 1860s.  This corridor became part of the Georgia Pacific Railroad, and track was laid through Douglas County in the 1880s.
  • The Automobiles (1910s to 1970s).  By the early 20th century, the rise of motoring was on the ascendancy as a form of transport as well as a recreational pastime. In 1916 the Bankhead Highway Association established the Bankhead Highway National Auto Trail.  Similar to the more famous Dixie Highway, the Bankhead Highway pieced together segments of the early road network into a direct route to the West Coast of the United States. In the 1920s, US 78 was designated under the new federal roadway network.  And by the 1930s, the entire US 78 Corridor was paved through Douglas County.
  • The Infrastructure Transformation (1930s to 1970s). Through a New Deal Era Electrification Administration Grant, the Douglas County Electric Membership Cooperative was created in 1936.  Bell Telephone Company used the EMC poles to phone service to the area in 1952.  The Lithia Springs Fire Department was created in 1953 around the same time a municipal water line was run from Cobb County and into the area.  In 1965, Interstate 20 runs through Douglas County, roughly parallel to US 78 but further south.  This was also when State Route 6/ Thornton Road was built connecting I-20 and US 78.
GDOT 1967 Highway Map_Thornton Road between US78 and I-20
  • The Suburbs (1940s to 1980s). Highway 78 was a principle route for the development of the first generation suburbs in Douglas County.  Post World War II new residential neighborhoods rolled out over former farms, and these were typified by mid-century housing types such as the Minimal Traditional (about 1935-1950) and the Ranch (about 1935-1975).  Iconic neighborhoods of this era include Anna Bella Estates, Oak Hill, and Whitaker Hills. Factory Shoals was acquired by the State of Georgia in 1972, becoming Sweetwater Creek State Park and providing a recreational amenity for all of these neighborhoods.  The Westfork commercial and industrial development was approved on Thornton Road in 1973, as was the Atlanta West Hospital.
USGS Austell Quad 1954_1968 revisions

After around 1990, new development and redevelopment slowed along Highway 78.  The footprint of development reflects the height of first generation suburban development.  To contrast with later trends, the advantages to this area include human-scaled, pedestrian-oriented development in proximity to a modified street grid.  Smaller residential houses typical of their era lend themselves to more affordable housing, and shopping, schools and civic institutions are in close proximity to residential areas. However, if not understood in its proper context, some may see disadvantages from these very same elements. Traffic patterns may move at a more mid-century pace.  People may expect residential and commercial buildings to have larger square footage and excess parking more typical of late 20th century land development patterns. The balance of these trends will determine the future of this area.

“Douglas County Georgia from Indian Trail to Interstate 20” by Fannie Mae Davis (1997) was a valuable resource for providing this information, and it is available for purchase at the Douglas County Museum of History and Art. Special thanks to the University of Georgia Map and Government Information Library


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