Clarkston, Georgia: A Small Town with a Big Heart—A New Image and Direction
A community on the edge of Atlanta
The diverse City of Clarkston owes much of its beginnings to the Georgia Railroad. In as early as the 1830s, the railroad started constructing rail lines that, by 1845, would connect surrounding Atlanta towns (including Clarkston) with merchants of Athens, with outlets in Augusta and South Carolina.
Where did the name come from?
Originally referred to as “New Siding” (named after Jake New, a Section Foreman that worked for the Georgia Railroad), the City of Clarkston was officially named as such by Governor Alexander H. Stevens on December 12th, 1882. Clarkston is named to honor Colonel W.W. Clark, a Director of the Georgia Railroad and a Covington Lawyer.
Since the railroad made commuting to Atlanta so convenient, Clarkston became a bustling community of homeowners who worked in Atlanta—one of the South’s first true “suburban” communities. These commuters accounted for most of Clarkston’s earlier growth.
“Goatsville” and “Angora Heights”
A folktale from the turn of the century mentions “Goatsville” and “Angora Heights” as alternate names given to Clarkston. It was said that, in the early 1900s, many Clarkstonians owned up to twenty goats! They supposedly were associated with a high level of prestige. These goats were believed to be the renowned Angoras variety, and they needed to graze out in the open.
This led to the nickname “Goatsville”, which was later altered to the more prestigious-sounding “Angora Heights”. These names have undoubtedly faded from modern Clarkston nomenclature, but Clarkston High School still pays homage to this history through their school mascot, the Angora Goat.
Welcome to the most diverse square mile in America
Beginning in the 1990s, refugee asylum programs identified Clarkston as an ideal place to resettle the new immigrants due to the close proximity to metro-Atlanta, public transportation and affordable apartment housing. The City has embraced the influx of immigrants and refugees and Clarkston was held up as an example of what successful integration can look like. Today half of the city’s residents are foreign born and hail from over 50 countries across 6 continents and the City proudly proclaims itself as “the Ellis Island of the South.”
The railroad still runs through Clarkston today. It is a homely reminder of the city’s humble, historic beginnings.
The Clarkston Woman’s Club
The Clarkston Woman’s Club was built in 1913. It is the third oldest Woman’s Club building in the state of Georgia! The land was given to the Club by the Clarkston School Board; the land had been given to them by the Georgia Railroad and Banking Company all the way back in 1894. The Club House was the first in DeKalb County to be owned by a woman’s group, and was built in the center of town.
The beginning of the Clarkston Woman’s Club stemmed from the Progressive Arts Circle, a study club formed in 1902. The Circle changed its name in 1912, to Clarkston Civic Circle, in order to establish a library. In 1913, it joined with the Georgia Federation of Woman’s Clubs, and a new charter was obtained in 1955.
The Clarkston Woman’s Club was born.
The Club House reflects popular bungalow construction of the early 1900s—brown siding and sprinkled with diamond-paned windows. This building also features a fieldstone fireplace, antique piano, a stained glass window, and library tables.
In times of need, this building has been shared with school classes, Sunday school classes, and as a meeting space for many community and civic organizations. In the early 1990s, the building was offered as a historic landmark to the Citizens of Clarkston. No longer a Woman’s Club, it can be rented for small social events.
In 1927, Mrs. Sadie Ray noticed that children weren’t running and playing outside, and making the most of their childhood. Mothers and women of Clarkston found themselves itching to make a difference. Led by Mrs. A.P. Milam, they created a plan to ask the City Council to support a public park.
Mr. P.R.G. Clark made it possible for the city to have his land, legally, and just a few months later in August of 1927, Clark Park opened as DeKalb County’s first public park and playground!
Later changed to honor the women that made it all possible, Milam Park is still operating to this day. It spans a vast 7.6 acres, and includes picnic areas, modern playground equipment, two tennis courts, one softball field, and one multi-use field.