/ The Atlanta Traveler
Atlanta — By Linda Erbele on March 7, 2010 at 3:50 am
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Picturesque Sautee Nacoochee

Some places in Georgia don’t get much press yet are very special and rare.  One of those special spots is the North Georgia community of Sautee-Nacoochee.  Located between the Alpine Village of Helen and the historic town of Clarkesville, the community has personality, peaceful beauty and sights of interest that make it a wonderful getaway from urban life.

One of the icons for the community is the gazebo on the Indian mound.  Located at the corner of Georgia highways 75 and 17, the gazebo was built shortly after the Civil War by the Nichols family, who also built what is now called the Nichols-Hardman Farm, directly across the street. Yes, this is a desecration — but it is the reason this mound is still here to spark our imaginations about what went on all those years ago. There were others in this area that are now gone.

The big old house and the cow pasture in which the gazebo sees the sun rise and set every day in the shadow of Mt. Yonah belong to the state of Georgia now, a gift from the descendants Lamartine Hardman, who ran the farm as a dairy and served as Georgia’s governor in the early 20th century. The historic sites division of the Department of Natural Resources is working to open the house to the public some time in the next two years.

The gazebo is at the corner of Georgia highways 75 and 17. (see map) This is the Nacoochee Valley. North on 75 you’ll find the Nora Mill Granary, Habersham Winery, Nacoochee Grill, the Village Tavern & Pizzeria and other places of interest in Nacoochee Village. You pass through all of those on the way to Helen. (See my post about the Village Tavern & Pizzeria here.)

East at the gazebo on highway 17 takes you to the Sautee valley, where Georgia highway 255 meets 17. Here you’ll find Sautee shops, which include the Shoppes at Sautee Point, Shapiro’s Art Gallery, Scarlett’s Secret,Sweetfield Mountain Merchandise, Prairie Trails, Greenstone Soap Company (the soap is made here in Sautee.) The Old Sautee Store is probably the most well-known of these.

Several years ago I was making reservations for a kayak trip in the Everglades and I mentioned Sautee Nacoochee to the reservationist. She responded, “Oh, I love that little place with the grass on the roof!”

That would be the Market, a deli-sandwich shop next to the Old Sautee Store. The grass has been established for many years, long before it became the hip, good-for-the environment thing to do. It’s a great place for lunch with its home-made breads, farmer’s cheese and soups. The Old Sautee Store has unique gift items, but it also reflects some of the history of this area.

On around the bend from the store on Highway 17 is the InsideOut Sautee Art Gallery, Yonah Mountain Vineyards tasting room and Elfmade Wooden Toys.

But back at the intersection of 17 and 255, turn down 255 to visit the Sautee Nacoochee Community Center. On your right this beautiful view is the Sautee Valley. Rising above it is Lynch Mountain. The Nacoochee Presbyterian Church and Crestview Baptist (back on highway 17) are two of the most photographed churches in North Georgia.

On the left, the restored rural school house is now the community center, managed by the Sautee-Nacoochee Community Association (SNCA.) The Center offers a folk pottery museum, theatre, gallery, art studio, dance studio, history museum, heritage site, nature preserve, environmental studies room and conference facilities. SNCA has established Sautee Nacoochee as an official Historic District and one of the “100 Best Small Arts Towns in America.” The association is committed to nurturing creativity, and preserving and protecting the natural and historical resources of the area.

If you don’t know what folk pottery is, you may wonder why a folk pottery museum would worth a visit. This area was home to Lanier Meaders, whose pottery was made famous by the Smithsonian Museum. You can learn all about it inside.

There are places to eat and stay right here in Sautee, including those mentioned above at Nacoochee and Bernie’s, the Stovall House Country Inn and Restaurant, the Vines at Edelweiss German Inn, Smithgall Woods Lodge and Lucille’s Mountain Top Inn.

Here are some events to put on your calendar for this area: The Cork and Keg Festival, April 10 (This takes place in Helen but is sponsored by the Sautee Nacoochee Community Association and will benefit its programs.) A Taste of Sautee, May 22-23 and Headwaters, Birth, Death and Places In-Between, July 8-25 (It’s a folk-life play. See my post about it here.)

(Photo: personal collection.)

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