The City of Thomasville’s Main Street program is 25 years old, one of the oldest such programs in the nation. The National Trust founded the Main Street program more than two decades ago in an effort to rejuvenate small downtowns, which were suffering nationwide. “Economic development within the context of Historic Preservation” was the war cry of hundreds of small towns that joined the National Main Street Center’s efforts to revitalize their communities and cities.
Thomasville became a Certified Main Street City in 1982, and has since had one of the nation’s most successful programs. In 1998, Thomasville was chosen by the National Main Street Center as a “Great American Main Street City,” one of only five cities chosen yearly. In the past decade, downtown Thomasville has seen remarkable growth and development. Many buildings have been uncovered from the 1960s-style metal fronts to reveal the original Victorian-style architecture of the 1880s.
Along with the physical transformation, Thomasville has experienced economic growth with the creation of new downtown businesses and jobs. Downtown Thomasville has acquired a reputation for excellent shopping and dining. Because of the diverse medley of businesses and restaurants, downtown Thomasville has something to offer everyone. Shop owners agree that being located in downtown Thomasville is ideal because of the cultural events and hospitality, as well as the support received from the Main Street Authority.
Main Street’s annual events have garnered national attention for their family fun, wholesome and creative activities and events. The annual Victorian Christmas has been named a “Top 20 Event in the Southeastern United States” for the past 12 years. Additionally, the Rose Show and Festival, held annually on the fourth weekend of April, was named a 2008 Top 100 Event by the American Bus Association.
In spite of all of Main Street’s success, the business and community leaders are not willing to let Thomasville “rest on its laurels.” They have taken steps to add another crucial element to downtown living. Currently there are several second-floor residences on Broad Street including the historic Mitchell House Hotel offering 30 condominiums.
Main Street’s active Downtown Development Authority is a model for the state, as it acquires white elephant buildings and transforms them into viable, job producing enterprises. Downtown Thomasville will continue to grow and develop both because of the determined and hard-working DDA and Main Street Authority, and because of the continuous support of the Thomasville community.
Thomasville citizens truly believe that downtown is the heart of their community and that is what makes Thomasville…A Place Apart!
Thomasville Landmarks is dedicated to protecting, preserving and promoting the heritage and architecture of the Thomas County area. Incorporated in 1966, Landmarks has a long history of accomplishing this mission throughout the community.
Landmarks has worked to save historic treasures – such as the brick paving on Broad Street, the Big Oak and the Lapham-Patterson House. Through Landmarks’ efforts, Thomasville became one of the first Main Street Programs in the nation. Using its Revolving Fund, Landmarks has saved more than 25 houses in Thomasville. This includes four houses on South Hansell Street in the historic district known as Tockwotton, which would have been lost to a grocery store development.
The Warren Avenue Restoration project successfully reclaimed another historic neighborhood. Using a Revolving Fund for home acquisition and rehabilitation, Landmarks preserved 16 homes and returned them to single-family residences. Other homes have since been restored by private individuals. Where crime and dilapidation existed before, a stable, community-minded neighborhood exists today.
Landmarks primary role is that of advocate for smart growth, preservation planning and historically- compatible development. It also runs Heritage Education programs for area schoolchildren and educators. Since 1985, Landmarks has helped nominate nine districts to the National Register of Historic Places and set up five local historic districts within Thomasville. The towns of Metcalfe and Boston are also listed on the National Register.
In an area renowned for its historic architecture and landscapes, Landmarks enjoys widespread support for its work. Become a part of this mission and help preserve and perpetuate the character and charm of the area. More information is at www.thomasvillelandmarks.org.
The Mitchell House
In 1882 Mr. T.C. Mitchell had a dream. With so many northerners flocking into Thomasville via the railroad, he envisioned a grand hotel to house these winter visitors.
The very heart of the little village seemed the ideal place to build this dream. After the first wooden structure burned, Mr. Mitchell set about building a much larger hotel, this time out of brick. The elegant Victorian structure faced the courthouse and looked out over a large circular drive to accommodate the trunk-laden carriages.
The “L” shaped building turned the corner of Jefferson Street and ran along the entire block of North Broad. The 20th century brought many changes. From the lobby, the sounds of a waltz from the ballroom were no longer heard. Most of the famous guests now went to Florida. For the next century, this historic building housed retailers including Neel’s Department Store, professional offices and other businesses.
In recent years, Thomasville’s Main Street program was active in efforts to bring new life to the building and the Downtown Development Authority was formed. There were many skeptics; however, one developer saw the potential and set the project into motion. The next few months were a textbook example of the best of public-private partnerships as local entities came together with workable solutions.
Today, the Mitchell House is a source of pride and joy, and a primo example of a beautifully restored building which houses 30 family lofts and condominiums. The architectural integrity of the interiors has been carefully preserved. The facades are compatible with downtown’s architecture and bring a dramatic look to the award- winning city.
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