It won’t be long before the city of Rome celebrates its bicentennial.
The city received its charter from the state in 1834, but folks have been living on the land where the Oostanaula and Etowah Rivers meet to form the Coosa River for centuries.
Floods were not the only reason that buildings on Broad Street were ordered to be raised in 1893. It seems that individual buildings were perched at different grades along the street so the city decided that it would be important, and easier to maintain both the
sidewalks and the street, to have buildings in each block on the same grade level.
Many have assumed that the oldest section of downtown was the Cotton Block, but actually the Cotton Block, the 100 block of Broad Steet was not built until the mid-1870’s.
Rome grew quickly and by the time rumblings of war were being heard had already become the center of commerce between Atlanta and Chattanooga. Federal troops attempted to take the city in in the Spring of 1863 but were held off by a seriously outnumbered force led by General Nathan B. Forrest. A year later, in May of 1864, troops under the direction of General William T. Sherman finally overtook the city.
Reconstruction was generally kind to Rome.
The legacy of top-notch health care in the Rome area started not long after the war. Dr. Wylie Reeder Harbin opened a practice in Calhoun in 1871. Two of his sons, Robert and William decided to open their practices in Rome, the beginnings of the Harbin Clinic.
Less than a decade after the war ended, Shorter College was founded, initially built on a hill overlooking downtown Rome. It was originally known as the Cherokee Baptist Female College. Martha Berry, seeing the need for education for the mountain children, donated 83 acres of inherited land for the Berry Industrial School. A school for girls came along seven years later and by 1926, the school gained collegiate status.
The community enjoyed an industrial boom when General Electric (1952), Georgia Power Plant Hammond (1954), and Georgia Kraft (1954) opened up the West Rome community and led to the development of the Garden Lakes subdivision. Only the Kraft plant, now International Paper, is still in operation.
At one time, Rome’s Broad Street ranked among the widest in Georgia. The downtown district was the center for commerce until urban sprawl became the rage after the Korean War. Many of Rome’s large downtown shops moved to the old Riverbend Mall overlooking the Etowah River, where the new Riverbend shopping center anchored by Kroger now sits.
A Streetscape plan was implemented in the mid-1980’s. and has been a positive factor in the renaissance of downtown Rome.
Rome’s Downtown Development Authority and its efforts to keep the downtown district a vibrant economic engine for the city have been viewed as a model for communities across the state.
Another large wave of industrial activity and job creation occurred two decades ago when F&P Georgia (2001), Neaton Rome (2001), Pirelli (2002), and Suzuki (2002) all opened plants in Rome.
The population in Rome has experienced relatively slow growth over the last 20 years however community leaders believe the city is poised for significant growth over the next decade. The housing market has rebounded (until interest rates took off recently) and the industrial recruitment team is seeing consistently as much activity as they’ve seen over the last several years.