|From Buford Georgia|
Whenever I drive the Highways of America, I usually chuckle at the signs that say Historic Summerville or Historic Sanford or Historic Whatever. It’s like every little town wants to lay their claim on history because they read in a magazine that it might rejuvenate the economy of the township. That being said Georgia towns can lay claim to a lot of history, mostly Civil War stuff. I don’t mean to downplay the significance of all these hamlet‘s claims, but I want to point out that I have my doubts.
One city that I was surprisingly impressed by is Buford, Georgia. All these little downtown districts have the cute little shops and the quaint restaurants, and Buford’s no exception. But there’s a couple of things that make Buford different.
First, and foremost in my thinking, there’s the Museum of Buford. This is a little free museum run by Lynn Bowman in the basement of one of the shops. It’s nothing grand, basically about the size of two garages placed end over end. But its packed with just about anything they could scavenge from a city they loved as it was undergoing the changes time and development bring along. They have street signs and memorabilia from different organizations that called Buford home. It has the Trophies that the Bona Allen Shoemakers baseball team won in 1939 and 1945 in two different Semi Pro World Series. ( I’m a geek for baseball, as you probably know.) A friend described the museum as a really neat garage sale where nothing is for purchase, and I think that’s a fair assessment. But the best thing is that, they distribute free of charge, a one page pamphlet for a walking tour of Historic Buford (download map here). When they are closed the maps are in a mailbox holder at the top of the stairs. We went on the walking tour.
Second, it that the history of the town is different than that of other Georgia towns. Instead of Civil War history, this is the town that was built, lived and died, at the feet of a leather factory. At one time, it was world renown for its leather from the Bona Allen Factory. As you walk up and down the street, you will see the leather works and the horse and collar factory (Most of the shops are in buildings that once served the leatherworks). As well as the several beautiful homes and mansions built for notable members of the Bona Allen family. The Bona Allen, Sr Home is available for events. The Bona Allen Jr Home is actually for sale (for 1.5 million) and you can see the inside on the realtor’s website (b.n. the prev link has been pulled by the realtor but you can see the listing here). Additionally, there’s the old field where the Shoemakers baseball team played, complete with some of the earliest lighting systems for baseball installed in the late 30’s. The newest addition to the journey is the Bronze sculpture of Roy Roger‘s horse Trigger (dedicated in 1996) a fitting tribute to a town known for its saddles.
Third, and probably most interesting is the towns focus on visual arts. The main street has a couple of galleries. Across the tracks, is a shop that houses much of the local folk art, complete with a smiling tin man to greet you at the entrance. But the very crème of the crop is in the old Horse and Collar Factory, where there has been set up an active artist’s colony, know as the Tannery Row Artist‘s Colony. Here you can see Artist’s at work and even converse with some of them. This truly makes Buford different.
If you walk the tour, you will spend about 2 miles on your feet. A good way to walk off your lunch. The most famous restaurant is Aqua Terra, but there’s 37 Main Speakeasyand Sunny Café on Main Street and The Pizza Pub and Tabby‘s Irish Pub at Tannery Row. We actually picnicked in the parked after picking up some terrific tamales for a buck a piece at Sonia’s Mercado and Carniceria, located in the main Bona Allen Factory.
So believe it or not Buford has got something nifty to offer. If you like Old Homes the walking tour is very pleasant. If you are into Art this is very close to a must see. They also have a huge arts and crafts fair every third Saturday of the Month (Or so I‘ve heard but I yet to confirm). So Buford should be on the map for anyone interested in local flavor.