Thursday, June 19, 2014


Nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, about 60 miles northwest of Atlanta, is the picturesque and historic city of Rome, GA. We recently spent a delightful weekend there to celebrate my husband's 50th high school reunion.  He hadn't been back since going off to college.  I had never been there.  

It was a beautiful drive from the Atlanta Airport (officially called the Hartsfield -Jackson Atlanta International Airport).  From the I-285 loop we were able to enjoy the view of downtown Atlanta without having to deal with too much of the traffic.

We did have some showers that we drove in and out of, but by the time we got to Rome, the sky only had a few dark clouds but no rain. I am not sure what I expected Rome to be like, but I wasn't expecting to see the Roman arches that greeted us as we entered the city. This wouldn't be the last reference to that other famous Rome though that I would see before we left on Sunday.

The story of how Rome got its name is an fascinating one to me. The city of Rome, founded in 1834 by five men each had their own idea about a name for the city.  They put the five names - Rome, Pittsburgh, Warsaw, Hamburg, and Hillsboro - in a hat and "Rome" was pulled out.  Turns out that was a lucky selection as it also sits among seven hills as does Rome, Italy.  An added treat is the three rivers that cradle the city. 

The Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham where we stayed is a renovated 1890s warehouse with original hardwood floors and outside-brick walls. The center of the hotel is a three-story sky-lit atrium. We would definitely stay there again. 

Another great advantage is its location.  It was just a block off Broad Street, the main street of downtown Rome. Downtown Rome has to be a favorite to me.
With a lot of work (we were told) the city has brought back downtown with four blocks of speciality shops that brought back memories of Santa Barbara, CA  to us.  
It wasn't easy to find a parking spot on the street showing how successful this renovation has been. There are additional parking lots but since we were so close, we were just able to walk down there.

Since we had Saturday free (the reunion dinner was Saturday night at the Coosa Country Club) and both share a love of history, it was really easy to spend our day visiting all of the historical sites that Rome is known for.  Right after a filling complementary breakfast at the Hawthorn, we started by walking to the Rome History Museum on Broad Street. 

Greeted by an enthusiastic director (?), we learned that East Rome High School, my husband's alma mater, is referred to by everyone as "K-Mart" because the high school was torn down and a K-mart was built on the site.  West Rome High School, the other high school when my husband lived there, is referred to as "Wal-Mart" since, you guessed it, Wal-Mart built there when the high school was torn down. Everyone in the places we visited used these store names when talking about the schools. She also told us that contrary to popular belief that the statue of the Capitoline wolf and Remus and Romulus (yes, like the one in that other historic city) that's in front of city hall was not given to the city by that other historic city.  It was actually an advertisement gimmick of a business. (sorry I forgot the business). I found that fact funny because my husband had already told me that story as we drove around the city the night before. I wonder how many other people still believe that story. I invite you to visit the museum's website to learn more about it.

I did get a picture of the City Hall and Auditorium because that is where the class graduation was held back in 1964.  Since I didn't get a close-up of the "famous" statue, I made the picture extra large so maybe you can see it down in the center front of the building. 
According to Rome History Museum, the area of Georgia where Rome is located has a native American history dating back to ancestors of the Creek who lived in the area until around 1600. The Cherokee moved into the area in the late 1700s. By the 1820s the Creek had left the area, but the Cherokee continued to live there until their official removal by the government beginning in 1835. (This mass removal is known as the "Trail of Tears" because nearly 5000 Native Americans died on the 1000 mile march to Oklahoma.)

Because of its location during the Civil War the Confederate army set up hospitals in Rome. By 1863 there were four Confederate military hospitals. In May, 1864 when the Union army captured the city, they also maintained hospitals there.

Driving around we found the United Methodist Church my husband and his family attended.

Nearby, was The Clock Tower and museum.  The tower is 104 feet tall and dates to 1871. The museum wasn't open so we couldn't go up to the top, but the plague on the building said, "Since 1872, the original, mechanical clockworks that serve as the centerpiece of this museum have been keeping time in Rome's most famous landmark, the Old Town Clock. The City Clock, as the tower is popularly known, houses a 250,000 gallon water tank that once served the residents of Rome. It was an impressive structure beautifully landscaped on one of the seven hills.

Our next stop was at the Chieftains.  The sign out in front of this beautiful house reads, "At this house's core is the 1790s log home of Major Ridge (c.1771-1839), a leader in the Cherokee Nation.  His 223-acre plantation supported numerous outbuildings, orchards and slaves while the family served as ferryboat operators and merchants. It was here the council negotiated the Treaty of New Echota in 1835, which promised the Cherokee land compensation for voluntarily moving to Oklahoma.  Their forced removal became known as the "Trail of Tears". Ridge knew death was imminent for selling tribal lands but believed the treaty to be the only mans to save his people.  He, his son, and nephew were murdered in 1839." Heather, the director of the museum, told us Ridge and his family moved to Indian Territory (Oklahoma) four years earlier to settle. Ridge, his son, and nephew were killed by embittered survivors of the "Trail of Tears".  

The additions on both ends of the house and the columns were added at a later time. The house was actually used as a residence until the 1960s.  Inside the house you can see the log walls of the original house as subsequent residents simply covered over the logs with wooden planks.  The house was named the Chieftains later by residents to pay homage to the significance to Native American history.

You can read more about the Chieftains and Major Ridge at their website. 

We have to thank Heather at the Chieftains for recommending lunch at the Harvest Moon Cafe. Another one of the downtown renovations, the food was great and I loved the decor. 

Tummys full, we were then off to the Myrtle Hill Cemetery. It is just a couple of blocks south of the historic downtown area on Myrtle Hill. 
A narrow road that spirals around the hilltop allows you access to the entire cemetery. 

It is home to a Nathan Bedford Forest monument, 

a monument dedicated to the Confederate Woman.
and the graves of almost 400 civil war soldiers , both Confederate and Union. 

There is also the Veterans Plaza dedicated to the veterans of America.

President Woodrow Wilson first wife is also buried there.  

If you are interested in learning more about this historic cemetery, visit its website. It has quite a history.

Our last stop was to the Oak Hill Museum, the original home for one of Rome's most famous residents, Martha Berry, an inspirational educator and social worker. We arrived just after the last tour group was taken up to original home of Miss Berry but enjoyed touring the museum and learning about her and the many Berry schools she was responsible for starting. Visiting the website made me sorry we weren't in time to visit her home.  I know it would have been an unforgettable experience.

Before we left Rome on Sunday, we drove around the beautiful Berry College, a 27,000 acre liberal arts college just north of Rome that Miss Berry established. 

We also drove out to see the baseball stadium for the Atlanta Braves farm team, the Rome Braves.

Before we left town Sunday, we thought we would drive by the former high schools. First we drove over to West Rome to the Wal-Mart (former WRHS) and found a nice granite monument for WRHS. 

On our way back over to K-Mart, the former ERHS, we first had to stop and get some ice cream at Bruster's Real Ice Cream. Any thing so colorful just had to have good ice cream. And boy, did they. They make their ice cream fresh each day.  I got peach ice cream.  Tasted just like fresh peaches.    

After that delicious distraction, we were off to the K-Mart to find the bench my husband was told was there recognizing the former ERHS.  (pictures on the right were taken by previous class reunions) We must have driven around in the parking lot and in front of the store 3 or 4 times looking for the bench, but we never saw it. Not sure why. Maybe it was being repaired or something.

So just a little disappointed, we left Rome and headed back to Atlanta to return the rental car and check into the Gateway Marriott for our return flight home on Monday.

Even though I was sick with bronchitis and a sinus infection, the weekend was a delightful surprise.  I didn't attend high school with my husband so I didn't know anyone at the reunion (except my husband, of course).  But everyone was so friendly and welcoming and I didn't feel left out of any conversation.  The dinner at the Coosa Country Club was so good, the D.J. played songs that were popular during the early to mid 60s, and I enjoyed watching several of the couples "shag dance".  That was a totally new dance concept for us.  One man asked me if I shag danced (my husband was talking to one of his classmates) and I had to tell him regrettably that I didn't.  We will have to learn how to shag dance before we go back for the next reunion. 

I am ending this post with pictures of one of my favorite trees especially in bloom. Rome was full of magnolia trees and it made me feel like I was back in sourtheast Arkansas. You see the magnolia blossom was my high school class' class flower.


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  2. I have recently moved to this area. I have 3 grandsons that we are teaching the wonderful History of this area to. Your info, has started to lead us on a journey of now finding out What 7 hills this beautiful town sits on. Thank you so much for all the wonderful info. Sincerely, Hank and Tami Pannell