Douglas County’s Main Street

Dec 21

[ARCHIVED] The Bankhead Highway, Part 2

The original item was published from December 21, 2020 1:47 PM to December 23, 2020 4:05 PM

The demise of the Sweetwater Park Hotel was not the end of tourism for Lithia Springs. Factory Shoals Park (now Sweetwater Creek State Park) was still a destination. 
Sweetwater Creek State Park_Atlanta History Cemetery
But the rise of motoring freed people from the timetables of the railroads.  National Auto Trails were making improvements to local roads and stitching together a national network of corridors that eventually gave over to the federal interstate system.  Lithia Springs did not miss out on any of this. 

The entire length of Bankhead Highway was paved through Douglas County by the 1930s. This draft GDOT Highway Map from 1938-39 shows the extent of the Highway.
1938 GDOT Highway Map_Douglas County_University of Georgia Map Library

The federal government was investing in a number of road building projects. As an example, this era saw the initiation of another iconic project that served the new energy around motoring for pleasure.  The Blue Ridge Parkway was started in 1935, and construction of the Parkway vision would take the next 50 years. Visitors to the Parkway could travel through rural environs with pastoral countryside and scenic mountain views. And hopefully spend money at local stores, restaurants and lodging in an effort to promote economic opportunity at the height of the Depression.

Many New Deal Era programs supported the construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway, including the Works Progress Administration and Civilian Conservation Corps.  In addition to road building, the federal government supported the motoring pastime by commissioning a series of tourist guidebooks.  The Works Progress Administration supported the Federal Writers Project, including The WPA Guide to Georgia.

Published in 1940, Tour No. 8 of this Guide follows Bankhead Highway and highlights points of interest along the way.  Once you arrive in Austell, the tour instructs you to head through Douglas County.

“Left from Austell on a good dirt road to Factory Shoals (picnicking, swimming, boating, and fishing), 3.5 miles, a recreational development named for the Manchester Cotton Mills, destroyed by Federal forces during the War between the States.  Tall trees grow within the enclosure formed by the brick walls that are overgrown with flowering vines.

Lithia Springs (tourist cabins, 9-hole golf course, 25 cents), 18.9 m., is a picnicking resort (L). Water from the spring, which is enclosed within a circular concrete wall and sheltered by an open pavilion, flows at the rate of three gallons a minute.  It is bottled in Atlanta and sold in various cities.  On the surrounding land are numerous gray boulders some fantastically shaped, During the latter part of the nineteenth century, this resort was known as Salt Spring, and was popular with southerners in summer an northerners in winter.  A short railroad brought visitors from Austell to the Sweetwater Park Hotel here.

Lithia Springs village, 20 m. (1,054 alt., 222 pop.) developed because of the near-by spring. During the 1880’s Henry Grady (1850-89), orator and journalist, (see Atlanta), became actively interested in the resort and was instrumental in establishing here the Piedmont Chatauqua and building a large auditorium to accommodate the crowds it drew. “

The tour continues on through Douglasville, Villa Rica, Bremen and Tallapoosa. With the development of The Bankhead Highway, Lithia Springs was part of a national trend that encouraged people to get out and explore America in the cars.  The economic opportunity offered by these new possibilities opened up the first generation of America’s suburbs.