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A Dawson treasure hiding in plain sight

POSTED: December 5, 2012 4:00 a.m.

If you haven't been in downtown Dawsonville within the last week, you haven't seen the Historic Old Courthouse in its Christmas finery. When you do, be sure to notice the new (old-fashioned) lights around it.

Members of the GFWC-Dawson County Woman's Club spent hours getting decorations ready and the Dawson County Public Works Department put them up.

That is an annual occurrence.

In fact, the Woman's Club and that courthouse are inextricably connected.

For a number of years after DCWC was established (1979), the club sponsored a Christmas Open House there.

On a Sunday afternoon each year, singing groups from different churches and schools provided the entertainment, club members decorated inside and out and served refreshments, and Mrs. Claus gave candy to the children as they shared their wish lists.

After the building was condemned as unsafe, the club continued to decorate the exterior, but they organized the singing groups to perform in different downtown churches, where they also continued to serve refreshments.

Eventually, when Amicalola Lodge began to sponsor a similar Christmas Open House up on the mountain, the club discontinued its event.

In the meantime, however, the club had undertaken the project of having the Old Courthouse restored, a project that required many fundraisers, a grant from then-Gov. Joe Frank Harris, an allotment from the county's SPLOST fund and several years to complete.

So, of course, those ladies served as hostesses when the governor came for the dedication ceremony and Commissioner Joe Lane Cox cut the ribbon.

Although no more Christmas Open House programs were held there, the club kept making and buying decorations and coordinating with the county to make the square beautiful for the holidays.

For several years, the club put posts with decorated kerosene lanterns around the courthouse square.

I have forgotten whether club members had the responsibility of lighting the lanterns each night or whether someone in city or county government assumed that job. But as the restoration project began, one of the fundraisers was selling those posts and lanterns.

I know that for some years I and other Dawson County Woman's Club families marked our driveways with them every Christmas season.

Fortunately, as new members came into the woman's club, they have continued that seasonal function of decorating.

It was Dawsonville Mayor James Grogan, however, who had the idea of putting the new lamps, and I think everyone will appreciate the addition.

There is an additional attraction inside that old structure; it's in the Historical and Genealogical Society office. But that requires more space than I can give it here.

It is a treat that all native and long-time residents really must see, but those who have become Dawson Countians more recently will also thoroughly enjoy.

When this year's decorators went in to take a peek, they were so delighted that they want to bring the entire membership for a longer visit.

More about that hidden treasure later.

Helen Taylor's column appears periodically in the Dawson Community News.

 

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