Wednesday, April 18, 2012

17 April 1976: Boy Scouts Host Open House at Franklin Hotel

On this day in 1976, Boy Scout Troop 76 hosted an open house at the old Franklin Hotel on Broad Street. The building had been left empty since 1972 when the Athens Hardware Company, formerly the Childs-Nickerson Hardware Company, moved from the site after 107 years at the same location.

The Franklin Hotel was built in 1845 by William L. Mitchell*, a trustee of the University of Georgia who purchased the property from UGA in 1843. On the first floor were retail businesses while the upper levels, which were built later, were used as hotel space. For many years, one of the stores in the Franklin Hotel served as the local post office. In 1974, it was named to the National Register of Historic Places.

Two members of Troop 76, David Griffin, who was looking for an Eagle project, and Greg Curtis, who was looking for a Life project decided to team up to clean up the mess left behind in the building. At the time of the Open House, the Franklin Hotel was for sale by the Athens-Clarke Heritage Foundation, which had bought and stabilized the structure through fundraising from citizens and a grant from the National Park Service. There were no plans in place to renovate or restore the space, but the work of the Scouts had peaked the interest of residents. The Scouts felt the Open House would be an opportunity to tell people about the Franklin Hotel's significance to Athens, as well as show some of the old items found inside.

In 1977, the Franklin Hotel was sold to Hugh Fowler, then later to a business property company. The space was restored as office spaces, and won recognition for the work by the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation. Today, businesses such as general contractors and advertisers occupy the building, as well as SunO Desserts.

* CORRECTION: The William Letcher Mitchell who owned the Franklin Hotel was the less illustrious cousin of the William Letcher Mitchell who was a University of Georgia trustee. The two led very different lives, but are often confused in histories of the University and city of Athens. The blog apologizes for the mistake, as it is aware this confusion is often an issue, yet succumbed to the common error anyway.

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