March 30, 2014

The Perfect Urban Hike: Rome, Georgia

Official symbol

For a change of pace, I like urban hiking and want to share my town, Rome, Georgia, with you. A keen interest in history and architecture helped me develop a renewed appreciation for my town along with the discovery of the book, Georgia Walks by Ren and Helen Davis, which includes a walking tour of Rome, as well as tours of many other historical towns in Georgia.  Much of the historical information provided in this post was taken from Georgia Walks

Rome, Georgia is midway between Chattanooga and Atlanta in the Appalachian foothills. It was home to generations of native cultures (Creek and Cherokee) for centuries. In 1832 Floyd County was created by the Georgia Legislature after asserting its claims to the land when the Cherokee were forced west. Rome was selected as the county seat, and the name came from a list of choices drawn from a hat even though some think it came from Rome, Italy as both cities have seven hills.

Due largely to the confluence of three rivers—the Etowah, Oostanaula, and Coosa, Rome became the economic center of northwest Georgia. Boats and barges navigated the three rivers, and a railway spur connected Rome with the main line running from Atlanta to Chattanooga, Tennessee. Factories were built along the waterways, and merchants set up shop.

Confluence of the Etowah, Oostanaula, and Coosa Rivers.  (Photograph courtesy of Beth Hemann.) 

Fortunately, the city escaped total destruction during the Civil War even though much of its industry was wrecked and burned when Union troops captured the city to eliminate Confederate supply sources. After the Civil War, Rome’s importance as a regional transportation and manufacturing center returned it to prosperity. During this time, there were two men who would later gain national prominence working in Rome: Henry W. Grady who would later become editor of the Atlanta Constitution and Woodrow Wilson who would later become President of the United States

Today fine examples of Victorian commercial structures and elegant homes remain as links to this era of rebirth which makes my town of Rome the perfect urban hike. 


Floyd County Courthouse (1892) noted for its distinctive clock and bell tower. 

The Forrest Hotel, named for Confederate Brigadier General Nathan Bedford Forrest, who helped save the town of Rome in 1863 from Yankee Colonel Abel Streight's Raid.   Here is more about Rome Civil War history.   Sherman arrived in Rome in 1864. 

The Masonic Temple (1877) replaced the original temple burned by Union troops in 1864.   After the war, many Union veterans, who were also Masons, sent contributions to rebuild the temple.   

DeSoto Theatre (1929) was the first in the South designed for "talkies." 

This statue depicting the Capitoline Wolf with Romulus and Remus is at the front entrance of City Hall.  It was a gift to the city from Italian dictator Benito Mussolini in 1929 and was removed during World War II to prevent its being vandalized. 

City Hall (1916) also houses the Rome City Auditorium.

Carnegie Library (1911) was one of the many libraries established by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.  It now houses city offices as well as offices of local professionals. 

The Robert Redden Memorial Bridge (circa 1900's) is situated over the confluence of the Coosa, Etowah, and Oostanaula Rivers. This old railroad bridge is now a pedestrian walkway to an extensive system of levee trails known as the Heritage Trails.  Here is more information on the Heritage Trails.  

Between the Rivers Historic District:

This historic district is a downtown residential area which includes many lovely homes and churches.  
First Presbyterian Church (1854). 

In this beautiful brick Gothic Revival-style church, Woodrow Wilson met Ellen Axson, daughter of the pastor, the Reverend Samuel Axson, in the summer of 1883. Here is more information on the courtship, marriage, and life of Ellen Axson Wilson. Mrs. Wilson is buried at Rome's Myrtle Hill Cemetery featured later in the post.

First Methodist Church (1884) which is Victorian Greek Renaissance with beautiful mahogany interior woodwork. 

First Baptist Church (1958).  The original church on this site was completed in 1855 and served as a hospital during the Civil War.  Union troops stabled their horses in the basement. 

St. Peter's Episcopal Church (1898).  Known for its beautiful stained-glass windows, the first services were held in the present church on Christmas Day 1898. 

Former manse of St. Peter's Episcopal Church is now used for church offices.

Methodist Parsonage (1856).  This frame, two-story house served as residence of the Methodist minister from 1856 to 1888 and is now an office for a local business. 

The Reverend Samuel Axson House (1867) once owned by Reverend Axson, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church and father-in-law of President Woodrow Wilson. 

The Hillyer House (1885) is a well-proportioned Queen Anne-style house. 

The Fahy House (1893) built by Thomas Fahy for his wife and 11 children.  Daughter Agnes was close friends with Gone With the Wind author Margaret Mitchell, who was a frequent visitor. 

For those of you who remember Wyatt's in downtown Rome, this was the former home of Bobby Wyatt. 

The Columns (1910) Neo Classical Style is currently being renovated.  To follow its progress, be sure to visit its Facebook page, The Columns of Rome.  

Site of Sherman's Headquarters in 1864 during his brief stay in Rome.  The present Greek Revival structure, completed in 1911, is modeled after the Gordon-Lee House in Chickamauga, Georgia. 

A personal favorite of mine.  (Photograph courtesy of Beth Hemann.) 

Perched atop Neely Hill, the Clocktower is one of Rome's most beloved landmarks and is now the official symbol of Rome.  (Photograph courtesy of Jimmye Grimes.) 

The clocktower is actually an old water tower built in the 1870's.  It held 250,000 gallons of water.  No longer a water tower, it is now a museum featuring murals depicting the history of Rome.   Here is more information on the Clocktower and Museum 

If you don't want to climb the 107 steps to the top of the Clocktower, you can enjoy this view of Rome from the top of Neely Hill.  (Photograph courtesy of Beth Hemann.) 

Myrtle Hill Cemetery: 

Situated above the Etowah River, the cemetery is Rome's oldest burial ground and is the final resting place for early pioneers, Civil War soldiers, and prominent citizens including First Lady Ellen Axson Wilson. 

A free mobile app tour can be downloaded here providing a detailed tour of the cemetery. (Photograph courtesy of Beth Hemann.) 

A beautiful panoramic view of the city awaits at the top of Myrtle Hill.  (Photograph courtesy of Beth Hemann.) 

Spring is a beautiful time of year to enjoy an urban hike of Georgia's Rome. Most of the photographs featured in this post were taken in April 2013.  If you are interested in a walking tour of Rome, be sure to visit the Rome-Floyd Visitor's Center for a map. 

I hope you have enjoyed this tour of my town, and challenge you to enjoy an urban hike soon, perhaps in your town or in Rome, so you can "Keep On Hiking." 

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