One-Tank Trip: Cornelia, Georgia

  • By: Lisa Stowe Stauffer
  • For: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
  • Date: Sunday, February 22, 2009
From the Beginning
Tucked away in the foothills of northeast Georgia, Cornelia was nothing but rolling farmland for centuries. Hunters and trappers passed through, but settlers went elsewhere until two railroad lines intersected there in 1882.

The settlement was first called Rabun Gap Junction, then Blaine, and finally Cornelia. The railroad brought passengers escaping Atlanta’s summer heat, and it took apples and peaches out to market. From 1907 to 1946, the Tallulah Falls Railway ran through Cornelia as far north as Franklin, North Carolina.

Credit / Lodge at Apple Pie Ridge
The Lodge at Apple Pie Ridge recalls Cornelia’s apple-centric past by naming its five guest rooms after apples that were once grown on the property.

Lisa Lowe Stauffer / AJC Special
Georgia’s version of the Big Apple has stood in Cornelia since 1926, when the area was famous for its bountiful crops of the delectable red fruit.

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Places to Visit
Big Apple Statue
The Big Apple statue, given to the city by the Southern Railway Company in 1926, still stands outside the railroad depot, reminding visitors that this was once the heart of the largest apple-growing area in the South. Cornelia’s Historic Walking Tour brochure is available in the depot’s museum. Many of the buildings from the early 1900s are still in use.

Cornelia Railroad Depot Museum
Cornelia Railroad Depot Museum was built in 1914. Railroad buffs will love seeing artifacts from both the Southern Railway Company and Tallulah Falls Railroad Company, including a switching station for managing train traffic in pre-computer days. Outside the depot are two restored cabooses. Be sure to peek in a caboose’s window to see an old potbellied stove.
  • Location: 201 Clarkesville Street
  • Price: Free
  • Hours: Monday - Friday from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. and by appointment
  • Phone: 706-778-7875
Everything Elvis Museum
The Everything Elvis Museum is in the Loudermilk Boarding House, built in 1908. In addition to more than 30,000 Elvis items, the house showcases Loudermilk family items including clothing, furniture and historic photos of Cornelia.
  • Location: 221 Foreacre Street
  • Price: $10
  • Hours: Appointment only
  • Phone: 706-778-2001
  •  Hartford House
    Hartford House is a treat. All furniture is made in America, much of it in North Georgia. Dining chairs are crafted by a Mennonite community. The wood pieces are all finished in-house.
  • Location: 126 Anderson Circle, Alto
  • Tours: Weekdays from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
  • Hours: Monday - Saturday from 10 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.; Sunday from 1-5 p.m.
  • Phone: 706-778-3449
  • Website
Where to Eat
Fenders Diner
Booths, a soda fountain, old signs and a tasty menu attract hungry crowds. Homemade cakes are served on Thursdays. Serving daily specials, sandwiches and ice cream.
  • Location: 631 Irvin Street
  • Price: $3.99 - $6.89
  • Hours: Monday - Saturday from 11 a.m. - 2 p.m.; Thursday and Saturday from 4:30-8 p.m.; Friday 9 p.m.
  • Phone: 706-776-2181
Sacred Grounds Coffee
Specialties include Snickerdoodle latte, $4, and Aunt Leslie’s Amish Bread, $1.75.
  • Location: 282 Smithville Lane, Alto
  • Phone: 706-778-1208