such is the plight of Travelers Rest just outside of Toccoa, Ga.
Somehow, in all my explorations up and down 441 when I lived in Athens, I never once visited Travelers Rest. I don’t think I’d even heard of it. There were other state parks on my list, Tallulah Gorge, Watson Mill Bridge, Unicoi… but never here. This year, Travelers Rest State Historic Site (not a park but under the same State staffing umbrella) has been listed as one of the Trust’s Places in Peril because the site is dangerously close to closing. Too few Travelers in recent years led to a decline in revenue (a tour is just a few bucks) that prompted the State cut the hours down to one day a month. This happened a few years ago, not long after a “Friends of Travelers Rest” group had formed in Toccoa. Luckily the Friends group had formed and pretty quickly stepped in to take over the operation of the site on the other Saturdays of the month so that the few travelers that DID come through wouldn’t have to guess which Saturday of the month it was open. This is how it continues operations today, open only on Saturdays, there is a small office/entry room in which you can barter for a tour of the inn/house, postcards and christmas ornaments.
The first part of Travelers Rest was built around 1815 by a Mr. James Rutherford Wyly who was involved in the construction of the Unicoi Turnpike, an early road that lead from the headwaters of the Savannah River through the foothills of the Appalachians to Knoxville. TR was located near the indian village Tugalo, so the site was a natural crossroads for trade. In 1833 Devereaux Jarrett bought the property to add to his plantation and extended the plantation plain house form to serve as his home as well as the stagecoach inn and office for the plantation.
The property was lived in until the 1950s by Elizabeth Jarrett White—famous in her own right as the first woman to vote in Georgia—who sold the property to the state in 1955. During her life there, however, she had already begun promoting it as a tourist destination for folks like these here in 1934. Now that I think about it, the 1930s (beginning more in the 1920s I suspect) seem to have been a time of great wandering in the countryside. Despite a lack of money, folks were packing picnics and going for Sunday drives in their automobiles which were just becoming pretty widespread. Also the HABS program was begun…
Well, we at the Trust finally made our first trek out to Toccoa (the mountains to me) back in December and got a tour of the site for free. Hopefully we can get them some funding for more repairs and better marketing perhaps to get those travelers to stop by. In the meantime, consider this my effort. It’s your Georgia history! Get on over to Toccoa and visit Travelers Rest!