Historical Timeline

History of Athens-Clarke County

View landmark historical events.:


  • 1785: The University of Georgia (UGA) is chartered on paper as the first state-chartered land grant university.


  • 1801: A five-man delegation unanimously agrees to locate UGA on a hill above Cedar Shoals. One of the members, John Milledge, buys 633 acres from Daniel Easley on July 25, names it Athens and donates this land to University of Georgia for its siting.
  • 1804: The first UGA class graduates.
  • 1806: The Town of Athens incorporated.
  • 1820: The Church-Waddel-Brumby House is built. The oldest surviving residence in Athens, the house was saved from demolition and moved in 1972 a few hundred feet away to its present location on the corner of Dougherty and Thomas Streets where it serves as the Athens Welcome Center.
  • 1834: Athens gains its first suburb, named the "Village of Cobbham" after John A. Cobb. Eighty lots of land are subdivided and sold off next to new town limits established by university trustees the year prior.
  • 1841: The first railroad line links Athens. However, the line stops at Carr's Hill on the far side of the Oconee River, requiring a "tedious trek" into town.
  • 1850s: The Ware-Lyndon House is built.
  • 1856: The Bank of Athens and Oconee Hill Cemetery open.
  • 1859: The Lucy Cobb Institute opens and is soon one of the finest girls’ schools in the nation. The institute educated women until 1931 when the buildings were turned over to UGA.
  • 1861: Georgia declares itself out of the Union on January 19.
  • 1863: The one-of-a-kind double-barreled cannon is designed by John Gilleland and manufactured at the Athens Foundry.
  • 1863: The University of Georgia temporarily suspends classes, a move that lasts until January 3, 1866.
  • 1867: Naturalist John Muir passes through Athens on his famous 1,000-mile walk to Florida from Kentucky. In his diary, he calls Athens "a remarkably beautiful and aristocratic town, containing many classic and magnificent mansions…Unmistakable marks of culture and refinement, as well as wealth were everywhere apparent. [It] is the most beautiful town I have seen on the journey so far, and the only one in the South that I would like to revisit."
  • 1868: Two former slaves, Alfred Richardson and Madison Davis, are elected in April as the first two black men ever to represent Clarke County in the state legislature.
  • 1871: The Seat of Clarke County moves from Watkinsville to Athens.
  • 1872: Athens is chartered as a city.
  • 1875: Oconee County is split off from Clarke County.
  • 1890: The first story appears on August 12 in the Athens Weekly Banner about the Tree That Owns Itself, an oak tree that was deeded by Professor William Jackson to its own possession. The tree fell in 1942, but a seedling from its acorn was planted in the same spot as the tree and still stands today.
  • 1891: In the Cobbham home of Mrs. E.K. Lumpkin, America's first garden club holds its initial meeting. Members discussed plant cuttings and experimented with plants at their meetings every other week. Any Athenian was invited to participate in the meetings, as well as the club's flower and vegetable shows
  • 1891: The first electric streetcar runs on June 23 on Prince and Milledge Avenues, as well as Boulevard, Barber, and Lumpkin Streets.
  • 1896: Brumby's Drugstore in downtown Athens is lit up on December 12 using power generated by the new hydroelectric station at Mitchell's Bridge. This is the first use of electric lighting in Athens.



  • 1901: Fire Hall No. 2 is built in Cobbham at the intersection of Prince Avenue and Hill Street.
  • 1904: Present-day City Hall is completed. Included in the building are city offices, council chambers, an armory for the local militia, and adjacent office space for the Chamber of Commerce.
  • 1904: The City of Winterville is incorporated.
  • 1906: Clarke County's first hospital opens and later closes in 1937. It reopens one year later as St. Mary’s and eventually moves to Baxter Street in 1965.
  • 1907: Athens resident Ben Epps designs, builds, and briefly flies the first airplane in the state of Georgia. The flight occurs only four years after the Wright brothers' first ever flight in 1903. Epps uses Washington Street for take-off and landing. In 1919, Epps and Monte Rolfe rent the land currently occupied by Athens-Ben Epps Airport and operate a flying service. Epps died in a plane crash on takeoff in 1937.
  • 1908: Athens' first skyscraper, the seven-story tall Southern Mutual Insurance Company building, is completed. The building, located on College Avenue, is the only ferro concrete office building in the South, the first example of Commercial-style architecture in northeast Georgia, and a model of fireproof construction.
  • 1914: The Clarke County Courthouse is built. It is still in use today.
  • 1919: Athens Regional Medical Center opens to the public.
  • 1927: Charles Lindbergh does a scheduled buzz at all the Athens schools after his famous New-York-to-Paris flight.
  • 1928: Athens' first radio station, WTFI, begins broadcasting. The station eventually moves to Atlanta and is replaced in 1937 by WGAU, which still broadcasts today.
  • 1929: Sanford Stadium opens at the University of Georgia to host football games.
  • 1939: Athens purchases the Ware-Lyndon House, making it the first public building after City Hall.
  • 1948: The Georgia Museum of Art opens in its first location, the basement of Piedmont Library.
  • 1954: The U.S. Navy Supply Corps School moves from the New York Naval Yard to Athens, providing logistics training in the areas of supply, transportation, maintenance, and other logistics services for the Department of Defense and international personnel.
  • 1956: The city and county school systems merge.
  • 1961: Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton Holmes are the first African-Americans to attend the University of Georgia.
  • 1963: Clarke County public school system is integrated by four black girls - Wilucia Green, Margie Green, Agnes Green, and Bonnie Hampton.
  • 1963: Beechwood Shopping Center, Athens' first shopping center, opens.
  • 1973: Lyndon House Arts Center becomes Athens' first government sponsored community arts program.
  • 1974: Charles Mack becomes the first African-American elected to Athens City Council.
  • 1976: Athens Transit System begins service on November 1.
  • 1979: The first annual Twilight Criterium urban bicycle race is held.
  • 1980: R.E.M. plays its first ever show on April 5 at a friend's birthday party.
  • 1980: Georgia Square Mall opens as the county's first and only mall.
  • 1981: The University of Georgia wins the 1980 National Championship in football on New Year’s Day with a win over Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl.
  • 1984: Michael Thurmond, an Athens native, becomes the first African-American elected to the Georgia Assembly from Athens since Reconstruction. He represents a majority white district.
  • 1990: The City of Athens and Clarke County voters vote to unify their governments on August 9, becoming only the second unified government in Georgia and the 28th nationwide.
  • 1990: Georgia's first greenway, Sandy Creek Greenway, is dedicated. The greenway is a 4.1-mile hiking trail that connects Sandy Creek Park with Sandy Creek Nature Center.
  • 1996: Athens-Clarke County hosts soccer, volleyball, and rhythmic gymnastics events (including the finals) for the Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta. The United States women’s soccer team wins a gold medal in Sanford Stadium.
  • 1998: Athens band Widespread Panic holds a free concert in downtown Athens and draws an estimated 100,000 people.


The sources for this timeline are "A Portrait of Historic Athens and Clarke County" by Frances Taliaferro Thomas and "Athens, Georgia: Celebrating 200 Years at the Millennium" by Conoly and Al Hester.