This month, on Dec. 8, our city of Woodstock will turn 125 years old. Here, in the northern arc of metro Atlanta, it isn’t rare to come across a city that is younger than my second grader. By comparison, our city has a rich history and a compelling story. As our tourism department will remind you, it truly is a “City Unexpected.”
In the early part of the 19th century, pioneers and their families were settling the land our city rests in today. They began to start new lives and build a new place in a new world. At about the same time, Sir Walter Scott, the renowned Scottish novelist, was completing his 15th novel, “Woodstock.” The book had become a popular sensation, and the story found its way to the settlers in the north Georgia woods. They named their community for it: Woodstock.
The settlement had a postmaster by 1833, and churches began to organize. Families settled near waterways and mostly were self-supporting. The area largely was spared the destruction of Gen. William T. Sherman’s March to the Sea, and remained a rural farm community until 1879, when the railroad and its depot brought new life. With the opportunity brought by the railroad, on Dec. 8, 1897, Georgia’s General Assembly granted a charter and incorporated the community into the city of Woodstock. In case there was any question of the importance of the railroad to our history, in incorporating legislation adopted by the legislature and signed by the governor, the original boundaries were set for the city at three-quarters of a mile north and south of the train depot, and a half-mile east and west of the railroad tracks. In 1912, a new depot was built and remained in service into the 1950s. That historic depot still stands today and is utilized as a restaurant in the heart of our downtown.
As the town grew, cotton brokers, bankers, blacksmiths and barbers lined the west side of Main Street with cotton warehouses on the east side. To the north, a mill sat on Little River, producing rope. The remains of Rope Mill still can be seen today. The city continued its progress toward the 21st century, with Main Street being paved in 1912 and the arrival of Interstate 575 in 1982.
In 1990, our city’s population was roughly 4,500. Today, our population is estimated above 36,000, ranking us the 28th-largest city in Georgia. Money Magazine named us one of the 50 best places to live in America. Homes.com lists us the third-best suburb to move to in the United States. Safewise.com lists us as the 12th-safest city in Georgia. We saw more than 3 million visitors to our downtown shopping district last year, ranking us among the most popular tourism downtown destinations in the Southeast.
Over the course of 125 years, our city has had 31 mayors serving at the helm, and it is an honor to serve as the 31st leader of this amazing community. In a city that has grown from 4,500 to 36,000 in three decades, most of us don’t claim family roots more than a generation back here any longer (myself included). We’re a city of people who chose this place. We have inherited a rich history, and we’re building a place that we will be as proud to pass onto our children. As we celebrate 125 years, here’s to the Woodstockers who came before us and to all those who will call our city home in the years to come.
— Mayor Michael Caldwell
– Michael Caldwell is the 31st mayor of Woodstock, a retired state legislator, member of the Georgia Technology Authority, partner at Black Airplane, husband to Katie, and father to Oliver, Elizabeth and Charlotte.