Toasting the Holidays in the North Georgia Mountains

Cold weather, a roaring fire and a great wine are some of the things that instantly bring up thoughts of loved ones and the holidays. The quaint North Georgia town of Dahlonega not only offers the ability to sample fine wines, but also the ability to our the various vineyards. The “wine country” of Dahlonega has quickly gained the reputation for hosting several vineyards that offer a variety of fine wines and much more.

Currently, there are five established vineyards within a few miles of the Dahlonega town square. Visiting any, or all of these vineyards will prove to be a most enjoyable and unique experience. Many of these properties are located on vast acreage overlooking the North Georgia Mountains, providing scenic views that will surely please.

Each vineyard produces its own speciality wines and offer a variety of white and red labels that will satisfy even the most discriminating palate. The choices range from Chardonnay to Cabernet Sauvignon to Merlot, and more. Each winery houses a tasting room, which offers complimentary samples to those “of age.”

Wolf Mountain Winery, at 180 Wolf Mountain Trail, offers educational tours, wine tasting, and Sunday brunch. The winery is also available for weddings. It is a charming location, nestled in the mountains, with great views. For hours of operation and events schedule, contact 706-867-9862 or

The oldest winery in the Dahlonega area is Three Sisters Vineyards.  Starting their wine production in August, 2000.  The winery encompasses an 184 acre site,  at an elevation of 1800 feet.  Along with the commanding views of the mountains, they offer wine tasting for visitors.   The winery is located at 439 Vineyard Way.  Food is available for picnic lunches on th property.  An outdoor gazebo area is often used for weddings.  For more information, call 706-865-0687;

The newest vineyard to the area is Montaluce.  This facility is part of a new concept community near Dahlonega.  They offer “Tuscan-style” homes and has a 25,000 square-foot winery with sweeping views of the vineyards and mountains.  The main building houses a tasting room and a restaurant called, LaVigne.  Many of the vegetables that are grown in their own “sustainable garden” are used to prepare a menu of new and old world Italian dishes.  The vineyard offers a range of wines in th e restaurant and for sale.  They are located at 501 Hightower Church Road.  Call 706-867-4061, or visit their website for more information.

Another wine producer that has been in operation for many years is the Blackstone Vineyards, and is located at the intersection of Town Creek Church Road and Damascus Church Road, north of Dahlonega.  In addition to their own wines, they provide grapes to other wineries.  Blackstone,s public tasting room has been open since 2006.  For more information, contact the winery at 706-219-2789, or

A visit to Frogtown Cellars will  also be enjoyable to the wine connoisseur.  Bistro lunches and dinners are offered  on their 57 acre estate located at 3300 Damascus Church Road.  For tour, tasting and dinner events, call 706-865-0687, or

For those who prefer to not travel to each vineyard but enjoy sampling wines, visit the Habersham Winery Tasting Room, 16 North Park Street on the Dahlonega public square.  They provide complimentary samples of its wines that are grown north of Clarksville, Georgia.  Contact the Habersham Room at 706-754-7295

A note of caution:  after sampling wines from all five vineyards in the same day, you might want to spend the night in Dahlonega.  Have a happy and safe holiday season.

Henry Zuckerman is a licensed architect and Georgia licensed residential and light commercial contractor.  His company, StoneyBrooke Homes, Inc. has designed and built many homes in and around the North Georgia “Wine Country.”  Please visit our new website for more information.

Dahlonega Hosts U.S. Capital Christmas Tree

On November 24 – 26, 2010, the quaint North Georgia town of Dahlonega will host a 67 – foot tall Englemann spruce Christmas tree.  This tree was chosen as the “National Tree” for this year’s holiday celebration.  It will arrive at its final destination, the U.S. Capital lawn, after nearly a month of travel from its origin, the Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming.

The Dahlonega Chamber of Commerce is planning a fun-filled afternoon.  Children of all ages can visit with Santa from 1 to 3 p.m.   Country music star, Freddie Way, will be in concert in the historic town of Dahlonega on Wednesday, November 24.  Way, who is a North Georgia native, has become famous for his music and style after producing his hit song, “There She Goes.”  The concert starts at 3 p.m., and the tree is expected to arrive around 5 p.m.   The North Georgia Ensemble will perform from 5 to 6 p.m., and the formal tree ceremony will be at 6 p.m.   Finally, there will be a Live Nativity at 6:30 p.m.  A large turn-out is anticipated for these activities.  It is a very special honor  for Dahlonega to host the “National Tree.”

Upon the tree’s arrival  in Washington, D.C., the it will be lowered into a five-foot deep hole, and cemented in place.  It will be adorned with over 10,000 lights that will be lit by the House Speaker on December 7.

The theme of the Christmas tree this year is “Wyoming-Forever West.”  It will showcase the history, culture and beauty of the state of Wyoming.  More than 5,000 hand-made decorations will reflect this theme.  Each ornament is 9 to 12 inches tall, and will only be used for this holiday season.

If you plan top visit Dahlonega for a chance to see the tree first-hand, it is also a great opportunity to do some Christmas shopping.  The shops on the Dahlonega Square offer many unique gifts in a range of prices.

For more information contact the Dahlonega Chamber of Commerce at (706) 864-3513, or

Henry Zuckerman is an architect and custom builder.  He has designed built many homes in the Dahlonega area, and the Georgia mountains.  His work can be viewed at

When the Cold War Came to Dawsonville

In the 1950’s, Dawsonville was a day’s drive north on Highway 9 from Atlanta.  The Georgia 400 “corridor”,  as we know it today, was only a dream for a few visionaries back then.   Elvis was the rage, General Dwight D. Eisenhower was President, and years before President Kennedy “faced down” the Russians during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the United States government was quietly building a nuclear facility in Dawsonville, Georgia.

The bucolic community of Dawsonville, some 40 miles north of Atlanta, became home to the Georgia Nuclear Aircraft Laboratory ( GNAL ) from the 1950’s until 1971.  In 1956, the United States government purchased 10,000 acres of open fields and woods from the Tucker family of Dawsonville. Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, along with the Air Force and the Atomic Energy Commission, began construction of the GNAL- also known as Air Force Plant # 67.  The site is near the intersection of Highway 9 and Dawson Forest Road in Southwest Dawson County.

It is said that the site was selected for several reasons, but mainly because of its location.  It was considered an “easy commute” from the Lockheed facility in Marietta, then known as Air Force Plant # 6.  The site also was remote and unpopulated, thereby providing a “well-shielded area” where very little existed.

The rumors circulating about the former site of the Georgia Nuclear Aircraft Laboratory have become folklore and remain an interesting topic of conversation for Dawson County residents.  Tall tales of deer with three eyes or two sets of antlers are common.  Also, some claim seeing an “albino” black bear and other albino animals.  Notwithstanding these rumors, today Dawson County is anything but remote and unpopulated.  The “400 corridor” has been the impetus for increased commercial and residential developments.  Dawson County is home to many mountain, lake, and golf communities.  Tens of thousands of families now call the area home.

The initial intent of the facility was to research and develop a nuclear powered aircraft.  Remember, this was during the ” Cold War” when some in government believed we needed an aircraft that could remain in the air for weeks without having to land to refuel.  This was a top-priority project for the US. military, as they were confident that the Soviet Union had made significant advances in this area.

The 10,000 plus acre site had three main areas spread across several miles on the property.  The facilities were all connected with an internal “narrow-gauge” railway system.  The separate sites included a nuclear reactor, a cooling site and a hot-cell building.  There was also an underground “shielded site”, where employees waited when the reactor was operational.  Other buildings included an underground parking facility, miscellaneous storage / warehouse buildings, and research laboratories.

Most North Georgia residents had no idea that Lockheed was operating an “air-shielded” nuclear reactor on the Dawson Forest site.  An “air-shielded” reactor is a nuclear reactor that is physically hoisted into the open air when operational and returned to its “storage-pool” ( in this case a concrete pool built into a natural ” hollow” on the property ) when not in use.  It should be noted that each time the reactor was operational, the area surrounding the reactor was irradiated along with the intended “target.”

The development of a nuclear powered aircraft was never realized.  It is conjectured that a firewall and containment system needed to protect the flight crew, failed to be successfully developed.  Some claimed that the containment and firewall systems were too heavy for the aircraft.  Lockheed also used the reactor to test  the effects of radiation on military equipment.

The effects of irradiation on the surrounding area prompted new tests. Studies by the University of Georgia, Emory University and The Atomic Energy Commission were conducted.  These studies examined the effects to wildlife and the surrounding vegetation when exposed to massive doses of radiation.  The results of these experiments were devastating to all living things in the test area.  Thus, the rumors of mutant animals flourished.

Nuclear scientists began to understand that different materials took on new qualities once irradiated.  This new series of testing led to the formation of Lockheed Nuclear Products.  Various products were transported on rail cars to the reactor site, irradiated, then sent to the cooling site.   One such product was wood.  Ordinary pine was injected with a resin, then irradiated.  The resulting product was marketed under the name “Lockwood.”  It is said that this wood was used as flooring in the Atomic Energy Commission facility in Maryland.

The potential threat of nuclear war with the Soviet Union prompted more experimentation at the Dawson Forest site.  The U. S. government was in learning how our country would or could rebound after a nuclear attack.  It was equally important to understand the effects on our renewable natural resources, such as lumber, and if the natural environment would recover from such an attack.

In June of 1959, and again in August of 1960, the forest area surrounding the reactor was subjected to lethal doses of radiation for weeks at a time.  The reactor was only shut down on weekends and during employee shift changes.  The effects of this irradiation became quite obvious to the surrounding environment.  During the two years after the tests and at a distance of one mile from the reactor, tree growth was impeded and loss of foliage, leaf and bud production occurred.  Wildlife was all but eliminated from the area.

Lockheed closed the facility at the end of 1971.  Only a few above ground remnants of the GNAL remain today.  Some of the building foundations and the hot-cell building, with its forty-eight inch thick steel and concrete walls, are still standing.  The hot cell building was sealed due to contamination concerns and is surrounded by two fences.  This building is considered one of two “hot spots” that remain on the site.  The reactor site is also sealed and fenced in due to contamination and public safety concerns.

The two bridges that connected the railway to various sites were demolished when GNAL was being dismantled.  However, the abutments remain along the river, as do the track beds.  The underground facility at the reactor area where employees remained when the reactor was operational, also remains. This area contained three levels and included a tunnel that connected the reactor facility to an underground parking garage.  The underground facilities were kept dry during all the years of operation by a series of pumps.  It is now flooded due to the high water table in the area.

In 1972, The City of Atlanta, anticipating the need for a second airport, purchased the Lockheed facility and an adjacent 10,000 from Pickens County.  The airport was never built and the property fell into disrepair. Access roads eroded, people used the site as a dumping ground for garbage, and general deterioration of the property occurred.

In 1975, the City of Atlanta asked the Georgia Forestry Commission to manage the site.  Not long afterwards, the Dawson Forest Wildlife Management Area and the Paulding Forest Wildlife Area were created.

These areas are still monitored every three months for radiation contamination by the Georgia Environmental Division.  Although some hot spots of Colbalt 60 and Europium 152 remain, officials conclude that there is little to no risk to the public.

Today, the Dawson Forest Wildlife Management Area shows little signs of its former use, except as previously mentioned.   This property is abundant wildlife and is used for recreation.  It is also used by hunters, hikers, horse back riders, and curiosity seekers.  From time to time, the stories of mutant animal sitings are repeated.  However, nobody has been able to confirm  any sitings of five-legged deer or cyclops animals wandering through the woods of Dawson Forest.

Henry A. Zuckerman is an Architect and custom home builder in the North Georgia area.  Please visit the StoneyBrooke Homes web site


Inside Dawson Forest: A History of the Georgia Nuclear Aircraft laboratory, published January 2, 2007

Georgia Environmental Surveillance Report 2000-2002

Dawson Forest City of Atlanta Tract – Then and Now by Nathan McClure, C.F.


Long before shopping centers, fast food restaurants, and 4-lane highways, there were the quiet agricultural communities of the North Georgia mountains.  Long before rapid population and economic expansion and before communities with swimming pools and tennis courts there was the business of…MOONSHINE.  The making of moonshine is not limited to the North Georgia mountains.  However, the counties of North Georgia have a rich and somewhat checkered history of distilling and distributing untaxed and unregulated alcohol.  Counties such as Dawson, Lumpkin, Pickens and Gilmer became major suppliers of moonshine during the 1930’s and 40’s.

As far back as the colonial days, farmers in North Georgia discovered an easy way to make much-needed extra money for their families.  Farmers used part of their crops, such as apples, peaches, and corn to make whiskey and brandy, and then sold it locally.  Selling their alcohol in small glass jars was easier to handle and less bulky to transport than hauling crops by wagon over rough roads to local markets or to Atlanta.

Today, the general perception of a moonshiner is a simple person with limited means and little education.  The image of a moonshiner conjures up one who has few teeth, a long un-kept beard, a tattered hat, and someone smoking a corncob pipe.  Actually, back in the 1700’s, a moonshiner was a respected member of the community.

It was not until the late 1700’s that the Federal Government attempted to place a tax on all home-made alcohol.  This tax was repealed shortly after it was implemented.   Then in 1862, President Lincoln had to find a way to pay for the Civil War, otherwise known as “The War of Northern Aggression.”   Congress established the Internal Revenue Service to collect their newly imposed taxes on “luxuries”, which included alcohol.  Needless to say, this did not sit well with the farmers of North Georgia, and many refused to pay the new tax.   These farmers began to make their whiskey out of sight, in home-made stills that located deep in the woods.  They were known as ‘Moonshiners” because they made their product in the moonlight.  Thus, the legendary battles between moonshiners and revenue agents (revenuers) began.

In 1907, the Georgia legislature passed a law prohibiting the manufacture and consumption of alcohol.  For the most part, it had little effect on the moonshiners of North Georgia.  However, the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, along with the Volstead Act  (which defined “intoxicating liquors” excluding those used for religious purposes and sales throughout the United States) established Prohibition in the United States.  Its ratification was certified on January 16, 1919.  It was the only amendment to the Constitution that has been repealed (by the Twenty-first Amendment in 1933).  This changed the business of moonshining  forever.

The  Prohibition Era, as it is known, created an unprecedented demand for whiskey.  The illegal corn alcohol, sometimes called “White Lightning”, was in such high demand that  business changed from local farmers making and selling small quantities of their moonshine to help make ends meet, to big business involving ‘gangsters” of the 1920’s and 30’s.  These so-called “gangsters” created networks of farmers to operate stills just for their own use.

The moonshine could not be transported to Atlanta and other cities by normal means.  Local sheriffs and federal revenue agents scoured the countryside looking for stills and were constantly on the lookout for moonshine shipments.  This prompted a dangerous and sometimes deadly game to evade revenue agents.

During the 1940’s, high-speed cars driven by “trippers” were built to transport the illegally produced alcohol.  The “trippers developed “tanker cars” with secret compartments to hold their cargo of alcohol.  The “tanker cars” were often faster than any car used by the sheriffs or revenurers.  The “trippers” drove at high-speed over country back roads, often busting through blockades to deliver their precious cargo.  Many attribute these ‘trippers” and their powerful cars to the start of the sport of stock car racing, and eventually to NASCAR.

The history of North Georgia moonshine and “trippers” is celebrated every year at the “Moonshine Festival” in Dawsonville.  It is usually held in late October.  Also in Dawsonville, is the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame.  On display are some of the early “tanker cars” and stock cars that were raced on dirt tracks throughout the North Georgia mountains.  The “Georgia Moonshine Cruz-In” will be held in Hiwassee on August 12-14.  There you can enjoy mountain music, an incredible car show, and of course, a working moonshine still.

As an architect and custom builder in North Georgia, I love learning about the history and folklore of the mountains and its people.  It is my desire to bring a bit of that mystic to every home I design and build.  Please visit my website  I can be contacted at; 678-947-1187


If you think Christmas shopping should be a fun experience, then experience Dahlonega for all of your gift giving needs!  It will provide a hassle-free experience with plenty of personal choices, and unique gifts.

Leave the city, the traffic, the malls, the harried store clerks and the crowded parking lots behind.  You will find some of the friendliest shopkeepers in the South right here on the Dahlonega square.  Walking around the square is like stepping back in time.  The historic buildings, with their decorated store windows, will surely fill every shopper with the spirit of the season.  The brisk mountain air will invigorate the Santa Claus in everyone.  You will find gifts in all price ranges for everyone on  Santa’s list.  Many of the shops will gladly wrap your purchases and make them ready to place under your tree.  The following is an offering of some of  the shops I find interesting and unique on the square.  There are many other shops as well, where you will find the perfect gift for that hard to please person.

I am sure there is someone on Santa’s list with a sweet tooth, maybe even Santa himself.  Paul Thomas Chocolates, is the perfect place to find the sweetest gifts in the area.  Lori and Paul Thomas have made fine quality chocolates since 1975.  They have two locations, the original shop on Chestatee Street and their recently opened “chocolate wonderland” on the North Public Square.  They offer sixty mouth-watering chocolate temptations, including their signature Yahoola Snappers and Dahlonega Gold Bar.

The Fudge Factory, www.dahlonegafudgefactory.comis another fine confectioner in Dahlonega.  It is operated by second-generation “candy-makers” offering over twelve varieties of fudge and caramel “Dahlonega Nuggets”, praline brittle, and hand-dipped chocolates.  For twenty-seven years, they have created their handmade southern confections using time-tested recipes and quality ingredients.  They offer sugar-free chocolates that taste as great the real thing.  For Christmas, consider an assortment of “holiday pop-up gift boxes” of Truffles or Fudge.  Try their  Appalachian Assortment, or Favorites of the South Tower: sweets that are sure to please.  The Fudge Factory is located on North Park Street.

Todd and Amy Strickland are the proud proprietors of  Hummingbird Lane Art Gallery, located on the North Public Square.  Their second floor gallery is full of unique, one-of-a-kind original paintings, jewelry, ceramic and wood sculpture, and books about Dahlonega and the north Georgia mountains.  They have recently added studios for several talented artists, where you can meet and talk to the artist about their work.  On any given day you might see Amy “tossing pottery”, Margret von Keiser painting, or any number of artists and  photographers busy at work.  On a recent visit, they had two Alpacas from a local Alpaca farm in the center of the gallery.  A visit to Hummingbird Lane Art Gallery is always fun.

Quigley’s Rare Books and  Antiques,, is located on the North Public Square.  This is truly an amazing shop, offering rare and hard to find books and unique antiques.  Relax and take your time browsing the shelves stocked with old books on almost all subjects.  They have an entire section dedicated to old “Look Magazines.”  Be sure to check the very rare classic books in their glass cases.  Recently, they had a rare first edition of Margaret Mitchell’s,  Gone With The Wind (May 1936), and a signed first edition of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.  They also had a first edition of John Steinbeck’s, The Grapes of Wrath, and a first edition, (1938) of Dr. Seuss’, The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins.  You can find a perfect gift for anyone from the most discerning collector to the child on your holiday gift list.

Imagine shopping for toys in a relaxed, hassle-free, friendly atmosphere.  Village Toys,, on Chestatee Street,  is the perfect place for ease of shopping.  They have toys, toys, and more toys!   Village Toys is a unique specialty shop featuring top name brand toys and trains.  Some of the toys offered include dolls, stuffed animals, educational toys and games, as well as Lionel trains and outdoor toys.  For the future architect in your family, they carry a wonderful line of building and science toys, and arts and crafts project kits.

Gayle Jones is the proud owner of Jones & Company, (706-864-6282), on the North Public Square.  Gayle has been a merchant in Dahlonega for many years.  Her shop carries a complete line of Brighton handbags and jewelry, perfumes, and other fine accessories that is sure to please the special woman on Santa’s list.

Studio Jewelers, on the North Public Square has long been the jewelry shop of choice in north Georgia for unique, custom gold jewelry.  Owners, Thomas Scanlin and Larry Lohman, design and make many of the original gold pieces found in their showroom.  They can create wonderful jewelry pieces, from a gold necklace fashioned with an original Dahlonega gold mint coin to a diamond ring to grace Mrs. Claus.  Call 706-864-4234 for more information.

For truly unique north Georgia mountain gifts, visit The Dahlonega General Store,,  on the South Public Square.   Proprietor C. Jon Stone has preserved the early general store atmosphere and ambiance.  They carry a large selection of gourmet goods, jams and jellies of every variety imaginable and a variety of whole bean coffee.  They have a great gifts for the prospector and the prospector at heart; authentic metal gold pans, gold bars, vials of gold flakes, and of course,  a coon-skin cap.  They also have a variety of metal signs, old-fashioned toys, and marbles by the pound.

Great Fynds,, is located on Chestatee Street next to the Glassblowing Shop.  The proprietors will greet you with a smile and be happy to show you their goods.  They carry a variety of handbags, jewelery, hats, shawls and other fine accessories that will make the perfect Christmas gift for Mrs. Claus.

The Glassblowing Shop,, on Chestatee Street,  is home to a fourth generation glassblower – Chris Kennedy.  The shop has daily demonstrations of the craft and offers a range of handmade Christmas ornaments and decorations.  It  also  sells barometers and glass figurines, such as butterflies, dragonflies and fairies.  Windchimes and hummingbird feeders are also available.  They will be happy to personalize glass gifts for anyone on Santa’s list.

As an architect and builder in north Georgia, I have enjoyed shopping and working in the Dahlonega area for well over a decade.  Please visit my website

I wish you a very Merry Christmas, and may Santa make all of your dreams come true !


Christmas in north Georgia conjures up images of colorful lights twinkling through the bare branches of trees, the glow of a warm fire crackling in an old stone fireplace, and a cup brimming with hot chocolate to warm the senses after a walk in the cold night air.  Like many North Georgians, I envision snow flakes gently falling on obscure mountain roads.  I dream of being bundled under blankets with my soul mate – the cold air on our faces, the sound of jingling of bells, the faint sound of carolers in the distance – as we are drawn through a perfect north Georgia white winter enchantment in an open sleigh.

Small towns and villages all across the north Georgia mountains are planning “old-fashioned” Christmas celebrations; from Santa arriving on an old-time train in Blue Ridge, to visiting Santa and Mrs. Claus  at their home in Canton. North Georgia has celebrations and activities for kids of all ages.  Take time to enjoy a local, “old-fashioned” celebration in your home town.  You will be glad you did.

We all know Santa lives at the North Pole, but since 2002, Santa and Mrs. Claus have opened their “southern home” in Canton to thousands of admirers.  The festivities begin with a warm welcome from Mrs. Claus.  Inside the home, you can view one of the largest collections of Christmas memorabilia south of the North pole.  You will delight at the Christmas villages all lit up for the holiday, including many model railroad train displays.

Upon exiting the home, you will find a path lit up with colorful lights and decorations leading to…Santa’s Workshop!  You can feel the excitement in the cold winter air as each step brings you closer to the “sacred shop”.  Kids instinctively know Santa is inside waiting to greet them with a resounding HO! HO! HO!  All children get to sit on Santa’s lap, and tell him what they want for Christmas.  Be sure to bring your camera to capture all the smiles.  Santa and Mrs. Claus will be at 6951 Vaughan Road, Canton every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.  Please call 770-345-6314 for more information

The tiny mountain village of Helen, known for its Alpine Village theme and Oktoberfest, is aglow in celebration of Christmas.  The streets are lined with displays of trees, candy canes, and garland.  Enjoy a horse-drawn carriage ride through the village streets for a wonderful and charming experience.  Visit for more information.

The “Christmas on the Square ” celebration takes place in downtown Blairsville on December 5.  The activities begin at 1:00 P.M. with open houses at the Mountain Life Museum, and historic courthouse.  The Christmas parade starts at 4;00 P.M.  Then at a little after 5:00 P.M., everyone will gather on the courthouse lawn to watch the lighting of the Christmas tree and sing carols.  Visit for more information.

For a truly unique holiday experience, make plans to see the “Holiday Show” at the Rollins Planetarium on the campus of Young Harris College in Young Harris.  The holiday show,  ” Season of Light”,  is scheduled for two shows – December 4 and 11.  The show explores the traditions of the season, the burning of the yule log, Christmas tree lights and candles, the lighting of luminaries and the traditional Jewish Menorah.   The show also includes religious and cultural rituals, and of course Kris Kringle, Santa Claus, and St. Nicholas.  Weather permitting, The College Observatory will be open to the public.  For more information contact the college at 706-379-5195 or

Dawsonville celebrates its annual Christmas tree lighting on December 5.  There will be hot cider, cocoa and coffee to warm all in the cold night air.  The Dawson County High School Chorus will be performing and Santa will arrive as the crowd sings  “Here Comes Santa Claus”.  The kids will want to visit with santa just to make sure they are on his “good” list.  For more information, visit

Always a family favorite and worthy of inclusion is the ” Magical Nights of Lights” on Lake Lanier Islands.   There are over six miles of giant illuminated characters created from millions of lights.  Plan on visiting the Holiday Village, complete with a roaring bonfire, pony rides, and of course, Santa himself.  For more information please visit

“An Old Fashioned Christmas in the Mountains” will be held in Cleveland on December 5.  The fun begins at noon in Historic Downtown Cleveland.  The celebration will feature a “Gingerbread House” competition.  Each entry must be modeled after an historic building or landmark in White County.  The Girl Scouts of Historic Georgia will choose the finalists on December 3.  The winner will be chosen on December 5.  There will also be a Christmas parade, caroling on the square, and a Santa look-a-like contest.  Free hot cocoa and cookies, kids activities, and games will also be featured.  Visit for more information.

Jasper will celebrate “Night of Lights Christmas Celebration” on December 5 beginning at 3:00 P.M.  Kids can visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus.  There will be a parade of lights and special music, face painting and activities for the kids.  Please visit

Celebrate an “Old fashioned Christmas” in Dahlonega with a real “home-town” Christmas parade that will bring Santa Claus to town.  There are plenty of other holiday festivities planned throughout December such as caroling on the square, wine sampling, live theatrical Christmas events.  A visit to this charming mountain town during the holidays will simply amaze all with its lights and decorations in the town square.  On December 6, local “Bed and Breakfasts” will host a “Sleigh Bell Tour” of their facilities.  Please call the Dahlonega-Lumpkin County Visitors Center for more information, 706-864-3513, or

Nothing is more special or rewarding than celebrating Christmas at your home with family and friends.  As an architect and custom builder, I take great pride in creating homes that will welcome family, friends, and…Santa to your special holiday celebration in the North  Georgia Mountains.  Please visit

From our home to yours… HAPPY HOLIDAYS !!!


There is a little Clark W. Griswold in all of us.  As in the movie “Christmas Vacation”, we dream of trudging through knee-deep snow with our family on a quest for this year’s family Christmas tree.  Last year’s tree was “perfect”, but it has lost its stature over the last ten months.  We are now ” laser focused” on finding THE TREE; the perfect specimen to grace our home and be adorned with our favorite, treasured ornaments. It MUST be the tree of all trees that will set the standard for all other Christmas’ to come.  A tree that will be the symbol of this years family Christmas.

In the past, I have dragged my family to Christmas tree lots all over Atlanta to find the perfect tree.  We have found short ones, tall ones, skinny ones, and fat ones.  We have all heard a tree vendor in a shopping center parking lot tout fresh trees; just cut last week, and shipped directly from the tree farm just for you.  Perhaps some of the trees are fresh, but if you really want a fresh tree, why not cut one yourself ?   It will be a family adventure that promises to give lasting memories and interesting stories that will be told and embellished for years to come.

For those of us that prefer not trekking through knee-deep snow like the Griswold’s to find the perfect family Christmas tree, consider a local north Georgia tree farm.  Tree farms offer a variety of tree types and sizes ready for you to cut.  Some tree farms make the experience even more rewarding with hay rides, hot chocolate, and other activities for kids.

You might recall the scene in ‘Christmas Vacation” when Clark’s son Rusty asks, “Dad…did you bring the saw?”  Although some tree farms have saws available, I urge you to bring your own saw, along with rope / tie-downs, protection for the top of your vehicle, and gloves.

So go ahead and make your plans to cut your own tree this year.  It will prove to be fun for everyone, even Dad.   I have compiled a short list of some Christmas tree farms in the north Georgia mountains.  Please check with the individual tree farm for hours of operation, and any other activities they may have.

The Kinsey Family Tree Farm on Jot-EM-Down Road in Forsyth County,, opens the weekend before Thanksgiving.  In addition to cut your own trees, they offer pre-cut, and “live” trees for sale.  Roasted marshmallows, hot chocolate, wagon rides, and holiday music will surely delight the family.

Located on John Burruss Road in Forsyth County is the Bottoms Christmas Tree farm, .  They have a wonderful selection of “Choose to Cut” trees.  The family can enjoy roasted marshmallows and hot apple cider.  You can visit with their farm animals and take a horse drawn wagon ride ( Saturdays only).

The Holly Hill Tree Farm, , on Woodland Lane in Dahlonega offers a variety of  “U-Choose and Cut” trees.  Also in Dahlonega on Black Mountain Road is the Black Mountain Forest Christmas Tree farm, .  They offer White Pine and Leyland Cypress trees ready for you to cut.  Spend some time browsing the Christmas shop for handmade wreaths, and Christmas decorations.  Enjoy viewing the display of antique tractors, corn shelters and grinders.

In Pickens County, visit Jack’s Tree Farms ( 706-692-3261) on Carver Mill Road in Talking Rock.  Please call for hours of operation.  Also in Pickens County is Lowery’s Tree Farm on Old Pleasant Valley Road.   They can be reached at 706-276-3545.

In Clarkesville, Habersham County, visit Purcell Tree Farm on Ga. Hwy. 197 North.  They offer “U-Choose & Cut” and pre-cut trees.  The Christmas tree farm opens the day after Thanksgiving.  Contact them at 706-754-4134.

Located in Cleveland, White County is the Mossey Creek Tree Farm.  They offer a variety of “U-Choose and Cut” trees, such as Leyland Cypress, White Pine, and Cedar.  They can be reached at 706-219-3059.

Rabun County is home to the Dillard Tree Farm,,  on Highway 441 in Dillard.  The tree farm is open Thanksgiving afternoon, and closes  for the season on December 16.  They feature the Canaan Fir Christmas Tree ready for you to cut.  They can be reached at 706-746-3145.   Also on Highway 441 in Rabun Gap is the Osage Tree Farm.  They can be reached at 706-746-6952.

The Southern Tree Plantation, Inc. on Owltown Road in Blairsville claims to have over 25,000 Christmas trees of eight different varieties from which to choose.  It has saws and wrapping available.  Visit their web site for more information,

There are other Christmas tree farms that offer pre-cut and live trees.  Please visit for a tree farm near you.

As an architect and home builder, some of my most vivid memories is returning to a client’s home during the holiday season and seeing how they incorporated their Christmas decorations with the home design.

Often times, features are added to a design for this special time of year.  In one instance, we centered  outlets under the windows for “electric candles.”  In another home we created an alcove that is used year-round, but in December, it becomes a special place for their Christmas tree.   We always place an outlet in the fireplace mantle for decorations.  I take pride in designing and building a special place to relax and celebrate the holiday season.  Please visit

Dahlonega – A Mountain Gem

One of my favorite towns in Georgia is nestled in the mountains an hour and a half north of Atlanta.  The anticipation of something special begins on the journey to this “mountain gem.”   The majestic silhouette of the north Georgia mountains comes into view on your way to Dahlonega.   It is a marvelous landscape  that reflects an important part of Georgia  and its history.   I always look forward to the first sign of spring, as a green hue overtakes the mountains.   The array of colors in the fall makes way for the first dusting of snow in the winter.  This transformation is a sight to behold, as mother nature works her magic on Georgia’s Appalachian wonder.

Step back in time as you walk around  the Dahlonega Town Square.   All of the buildings are on the National Historic Registry.  Close your eyes and let yourself drift back in time to a more simple era, when the street in front of you was dirt and transportation was by horseback or buggy.  The commerce of the day centered around gold.   It was an exciting time then, as it is now.  Dahlonega ( ) has never forgotten its heritage, while transforming itself into a marvelous place to spend a day, week, or a lifetime.

Dahlonega is a special place with an incredible history.  It is a treasure-trove of art, theater, wineries ( ), restaurants, gold mines and wonderful  shops on the town square.  The focal point of the square is the old Courthouse, circa 1836.  The Courthouse is now converted into the Dahlonega Gold Museum ( ).  Many folks don’t realize that in 1828, gold was first discovered in the Dahlonega,  Lumpkin County area.  This occurred some twenty years before the California gold rush began.

Adding to Dahlonega’s charm is a robust art community.  There are art galleries, live theater, bluegrass jams on the square, and concerts in Hancock Park.  If your lucky, you can catch a live performance of Doc Johnson’s Medicine Show ( ).  Doc and his troop of fun makers perform several times a year in Dahlonega.  On your trip, be sure to visit the historic Holly Theater ( ).  The theater operates year-round.  It offers movies, concerts, theatrical performances and special gala events.  The Holly Children’s Theater gives kids an opportunity to take part in acting classes and audition for one of  the Children’s Theater productions.  Also on the square is a great music venue, The Crimson Moon Cafe  ( ).

Dahlonega is also home to the 130-year old North Georgia College & State University ( ), which is part of the state university system.  The college is only one of  six senior level military colleges in the country.  It is also home to some 5,000 students and offers a host of continuing education classes.

I have had the pleasure of working with many couples that have decided to move to the Dahlonega area.  I consider designing and building homes in the North Georgia mountains a privilege.  Each custom residence is a reflection of its owner, and as unique as a North Georgia sunset.  For those who yearn for a simpler, more gentile way of life, consider Dahlonega.  Please visit


Fall in the North Georgia Mountains is a magical time of year.  Folks from all over the country come to North Georgia to share its beauty and vibrant colors.  As you approach Dahlonega ( )  from Ga. Hwy. 400, you begin to experience one of the greatest “free shows” on earth.  The spectacular fall colors of the Southern Appalachian  mountain range are striking !  Breathtaking views and sweeping panoramic vistas  abound.

I’d say that most folks who live up here enjoy sitting on their back porch, taking in the sweet aroma of the mountains in the fall.  As the days grow shorter, a crisp chill fills the evening air.  You can smell wood burning in fireplaces and back yard pits throughout the mountains.  The aroma is distinct. It invigorates the senses.  One can feel the warm glow of lights twinkling through the trees and hear the distant rustling of the fallen multi-colored leaves as the mountain animals prepare for the winter.

Venture to the top of Brasstown Bald
( ) near Young Harris and enjoy a 360-degree panorama of the mountains and valleys below.  Also near Young Harris is the Brasstown Valley Resort
(  Sit on the back porch of the Lodge and “take-in” the amazing vistas year-round.  A bit closer to metro Atlanta is Amicalola State Park ( ), which is also near Dahlonega. Enjoy the vistas from the Lodge, or hike up to the top of the falls.

Even better, stay in the mountains for a weekend.  Rent a cabin and enjoy all that the mountains have to offer.  Take walks along a stream with your spouse, kids, or grandkids. Be sure to bring your canine companion.  Watch your dog chasing leaves and squirrels, while jumping in and out of the cool mountain waters.  Take your sweetheart for a romantic evening stroll down a quiet mountain road or just sit and rock on the back porch, as the moonlight dances through the half-naked trees.

As an experienced architect and north Georgia Mountain builder, I have helped many families make the mountains their home.  All it takes is the aroma of the mountains in the fall, and a vision of sitting on your back porch.  Please visit ( )