Where: Cleveland, Georgia
Trip Date: 8/21/17
As anyone who may have glanced up at the sky on Monday will realize, we recently witnessed a spectacular solar eclipse. Fortuitously, the path of totality passed right through my little corner of North Georgia. Well, I had planned to spend the day at Tallulah Gorge State Park sketching the scenery and enjoying the eclipse. Unfortunately, by 8 A.M. the park was full and the gates were closed, so I went to my backup plan and spent the afternoon on the square in Cleveland instead. While Cleveland may seem like it does not have as much colorful history as nearby towns such as Dahlonega, if you know where to look, you can find it hidden in little pockets off the main roads.
The most obvious and easy to find location is the old White County Courthouse, located in the middle of the square in downtown—such as it is—Cleveland. The building was constructed in 1859 and served as the county’s courthouse for just over 100 years until it was replaced in 1962 by a new—and much uglier—facility. The old courthouse is still the centerpiece of the Cleveland Square, and now houses the White County Historical Society.
Old BabyLand General Hospital
Just south of the square, off on a small side street you can find an unassuming building that now houses a local business. But until a few years ago, this was home to BabyLand General Hospital, where people would come from miles around to watch fabric babies being birthed from leafy green vegetables. I am referring, of course, to the Cabbage Patch Kids.
Cleveland is home to these ever-popular dolls, the city’s main claim to fame. It has been my experience that most people outside of Georgia have no idea where Cleveland is, and always assume I mean Ohio. So whenever someone asks me where I am from I ask two questions: “Do you know where Helen is?” and “ Have you heard of the Cabbage Patch Kids?” They always—and I stress, ALWAYS—know at least one of them.
The building itself was once the L.G. Neal Clinic, an actual medical facility serving the Cleveland area from around the turn of the century. In the late 70s—as the dolls that would come to be known as Cabbage Patch Kids were rapidly growing in popularity—Xavier Roberts acquired the property and turned it into BabyLand General. It remained BabyLand General Hospital until 2010 when a new facility was opened farther outside of town.
Old County Jail
North of the square on Main Street is the old White County Jail. It was built around 1901 and served as the county’s jail until a newer and larger jail was built in the 60s. Today the building houses the White County Chamber of Commerce.
The Telford-Kenimer House
To the west, overlooking the square sits one of the oldest homes in Cleveland—the Telford-Kenimer House. R.T. Kenimer constructed the house in 1870, but it was originally much smaller. In 1884 he expanded it into the large ten-room house you see today in order to accommodate his fourteen children—yes, fourteen.
The house has remained in the hands of the family for over 100 years. Sometime before 2005 the descendants of R.T. Kenimer put the house on the market with the stipulation that the buyers agree to preserve the historic home. Whether due to the declining market, or high restoration costs, the building remained uninhabited and for sale as late as 2013. To my knowledge it still has not sold, but a cursory Google search shows the house listed as “Off-Market.” The house still sits there; a little worse for wear, but still beautiful.
With the eclipse fast approaching and my initial plans rendered useless, I decided to view the event from the comfort of my own back yard. It was fascinating to watch the sun slowly disappear—through my most stylish eclipse glasses of course. Starting just after 1:00 the moon started casting its shadow, and at 2:36 the sun vanished completely. All of a sudden it was nearly dark as night. The only thing that could be seen of the sun was a golden aura reflecting around the edges of the moon. It was really quite spectacular.
As soon as the sun began to show again—some 40 seconds later—my father’s rooster became immensely confused and started crowing in a desperate attempt to herald in what he believed to be another morning.
Although my plans for the day didn’t work out, I wasn’t disappointed. The first solar eclipse I have ever witnessed—and a total eclipse at that—was one of the most amazing things I have seen in my lifetime. The next total eclipse to pass through North America is in 2024, so maybe if my attention span is long enough—and this blog survives another seven years—I will write and illustrate another eclipse post. See you in seven years.