March 9, 2018 | Dana Hensey
(For background on Chicopee Village’s history, please read Part I of this article series.)
Chicopee Mill, the cornerstone for Chicopee Village in Gainesville, Georgia, shuttered its doors in 1994, but its legacy will live on. Chicopee Village is registered on the National Register of Historic Places, and many of the original homes remain today in generally good condition. Some homes still have descendants of the mill workers living in them. Most major mill buildings are still standing, some being used for storage, and the administration building is now home to a local brewery (Left Nut Brewery).
While Chicopee Village was bred with a remarkable history, it currently faces the challenge of figuring out how to maintain its historic presence while again paving the way for the future.
Although the village is registered on the National Register of Historic Places, this designation is limited in its ability to preserve the town’s complete historical character. Many entities registered on the NRHP are single properties or buildings, like the Margaret Mitchell house, and protects the house from being torn down. Chicopee Village, however, is considered a “historical district”. In this case, it is not protected from a homeowner wanting to demolish their residence and constructing another residence that does not match the character of the Village. To ensure the Village is comprehensively preserved, a historic preservation ordinance must be in effect. A historic preservation ordinance is the local legislation that ensures the protection of historic resources and the legal means by which local communities can protect historic sites. Chicopee Mill is located in the City of Gainesville, which has adopted such an ordinance, but unfortunately, the rest of the Village resides in Hall County, which does not currently does not have one.
Enter AIA Northeast Georgia (AIA NEGA) and the American Society of Landscape Architects of Northeast Georgia (ASLA NEGA). Utilizing our unique skills and training, members of our organization are working with existing stakeholders in the village and mill, as well as the city and local government planning agencies to move forward together.
One of our current goals is for Chicopee Mill and Village to gain a historic overlay district designation within the County. This could open it up to local or federal funds to help protect its historical significance. To this end, Hall County planner and ASLA NEGA member Vanessa Foster is working to draft a historic preservation ordinance for the county, using the City of Gainesville’s ordinance as a template. She and fellow members hope to create a joint historic preservation commission with the City of Gainesville, which could be a great opportunity to unite the historic efforts of the community.
Another objective is to proceed down this path while at the same time providing housing to new and existing homeowners in the village, and encouraging new business ventures it the existing mill buildings. The housing and the original mill facilities are two of the most fundamental components of the village, and are architecturally significant for American textile planning and community design. They are very much worth preserving, especially if they can be utilized by residents and local businesses at the same time.
Finally, the last and most over-arching goal, is to strengthen Chicopee Mill and Village’s historical presence and raise awareness of this small village with a great significance in history. AIA NEGA and ASLA NEGA is teaming up to conduct possible education sessions and volunteer opportunities, even fundraisers in hopes of constructing a front community sign.
In the first of these events, AIA NEGA and ASLA NEGA will be hosting a unique, not-to-be-missed event in April onsite at Historic Chicopee Village. The event, “Chicopee Mill Village and Historic District: Design and Planning Perspectives from its Past and Future” will begin with a one-hour lecture of Chicopee’s background, a Q and A session, followed by a walking tour, allowing attendees to experience firsthand the landscape setting of the village and to access the interiors of several building types. The lecture presenters will participate in the tour, allowing for more informal discussion and questions, before the tour ends at the original mill. Attendees will then walk next door to Left Nut Brewery for beer tastings and dinner. (To ensure you receive an invitation to this event, please make sure you are signed up for our email list!)