Along with its beautiful nature and thriving community, Norcross is home to a long and unique history. Below, you will find a walking tour of Norcross that outlines specific historical markers. Follow the Google map and find the corresponding numbers below to learn facts about each location.
This will be the starting point of the tour. Inside, you’ll find more information about Norcross, and the friendly staff are around to help you discover more about the town. Inside the Welcome Center, you’ll find the Baseball Hall of Fame, and right across the parking lot is the Fire Station Museum. Check those out before you start the tour, and then follow the Google map from this point for the rest of the tour! Be sure to grab some headphones so you can listen to the audio tour.
The College Street location has served as a community gathering place for some 100 years. In the early 1900’s a building formerly located on Autry Street was moved to this site, drawn by a pair of oxen. The building had served as the office of Dr. W.P. Walker, a general practitioner. Soon after the building was moved it became a studio for Miss Ida Wooten. Miss Ida was a generous woman, a talented pianist, guitarist and vocalist. She shared her talents with the community and taught hundreds of students. In 1930 a new clubhouse was built by the Civic Improvement Club. It continued to serve as Miss Wooten’s studio as well as a meeting place for other civic organizations. Since 1958, its members have had the privilege of meeting in the clubhouse located at 33 College Street in historic Norcross.
The origins of the Norcross Methodist Church date back to approximately 1818, when a small group of people formed a church named Medlock´s Chapel about 1 ½ miles southeast of what is now Norcross. After a few years, this church moved to a location on present-day North Norcross-Tucker Road and was renamed Flit Hill Methodist Church. Camp meetings were held there regularly between 1825 and 1862. Once Norcross was founded in 1870, nearby Goshen Church (Presbyterian) and Flint Hill Methodist Church decided to move into the new town and construct a joint church. In the interim, a building on Norcross´ Church Street or “Holy Row”, which was later changed to Sunset Drive, was to be used by all religious denominations. The joint Presbyterian- Methodist church never materialized, and in 1871 the Methodist appointed a building committee for a new church of their own. 90 years later, the Norcross Methodist Church moved to a newer, larger facility on Beaver Ruin Road. Now, this building is a community center and home to the Lionheart Theatre Company.
Lillian Webb was a pioneer for women in politics in both Gwinnett County and Georgia as a whole. The park was named in her memory and all she did for the city of Norcross. On this site during the late 19th century, a professional size baseball field was constructed. Known for many years as simply “the ball ground,” this park became the center of the community every summer. From 1910 through 1950’s, Norcross produced more professional baseball players per capita than anywhere else in the country. Some of the greats include, Ivy Brown Wingo, Absalom Holbrook “RED” Wingo, Roy Edward Carlisle, Hiram (Cleo) Carlisle stand drought conditions.
Originally chartered in 1833 by the Fairview Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville, the church was originally located at the intersection of Beaver Ruin Road and Hopkins Mill Road. Reverend John Simpson Wilson was the first pastor and also served the Fairview Church as well. He remained until 1844 when he was succeeded by Dr. James Patterson. Contemplating occupying a joint facility with the Norcross Methodist Church, the Goshen Church sold their land and building and moved their meetings to Norcross. They built this separate building in 1899, and over time the church became known as the Norcross Presbyterian Church. 60 years later the church moved to a larger facility on Medlock Bridge Road.
Norcross was founded as a railroad town in 1870 with the expansion of the Richmond-Danville Railroad out of Atlanta. It quickly became known as a restore town for vacationing Atlantans wishing to leave the city. The train depot was built in 1909 to accommodate the needs of the growing community. It was originally used as a combination freight and passenger depot equipped with a warehouse, business offices, a passenger waiting area, and a ticket counter. The reason it was built was that the previous depot, dating back to the early days of the town, burned down in November, 1908
On May 17, 1872, seventeen people convened in the Community House on Church Street or “Holy Row,” now called Sunset Drive, in the fledgling town of Norcross, renamed First Baptist Church of Norcross in 1954. John J. Thrasher, Norcross´ founder, was among the founding members of this church. For several years, this church held services in the Community House, which was also used by the Methodist and Presbyterians until each denomination built its own church. In 1880, the Baptist church members began plans for a building and appointed a building committee, all of whom were women. Four additional women were selected in 1882 as the fundraising committee. Once the committee had raised $1000, work began on the church building at this location. In the early 1960, the church’s continued growth necessitated a move to a larger facility. Foe over 80 years this church served the members of First Baptist Church of Norcross, but on September 29, 1963, the congregation heard its last service in this building. First Baptist Church of Norcross moved to North Peachtree Street in October 1963.
Norcross was chartered in 1870 through the founder, JJ “Cousin John” Thrasher, and named for his good friend, Jonathan Norcross, the 4th mayor (1851) of Atlanta. “Cousin John” purchased tracts of land which he subdivided and sold as lots along the developing Richmond and Danville Railroad Line in Gwinnett County. The first train on this line ran to Atlanta in June 1870. Norcross was made an incorporated town by act of the State Legislature on October 26th, 1870, and Cousin John served as the first mayor. He laid out and donated a square acre of land for a park “so to be used for all time, never for industrial purposes of any kind.”
In February 1907, the Norcross Women’s Club took on the challenge of forming a public library. The Norcross Library, Gwinnett County’s first, opened on July 1, 1907 in a small room in the public schoolhouse. The libraries primary benefactor was Mr. Edward F. Buchanan, who had been orphaned as a child, raised by foster parents in Norcross, and made his fortune on Wall Street. In September 1907, he donated $2500 to the library fund. However, it would be fourteen years before the library found a long term home, as Mr. Buchanan lost his fortune and asked the Women’s Club to loan his donated $2500 to his foster mother. The library opened in September 1921 with 2500 books and with Miss Lola Key as librarian – a role she held for nineteen years. Except for a time during World War II when the American Red Cross used it, this building housed Norcross’ public library until July 1971, when the library was moved to a larger facility on Carlyle Street to better serve the needs of the growing community.
Cotton was the most important crop grown by farmers in the Norcross area in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Cotton bolls would be picked in the fall and would be “ginned” to separate the seeds from the lint. The lint would then be compressed into compact bales that would be shipped to market centers such as Atlanta for sale to manufacturers of cotton cloth.
This building and the town’s railroad depot were the center of cotton activity here in Norcross. 100 years ago this building was the home of the town’s main gin, operated by the Simpson and then later the Summerour family –both families were long-time residents of the Norcross area.
Cotton production in the area was in decline by the 1920s due to the spread across the state of the boll weevil, an insect that attacked the cotton bolls and greatly reduced the amount of useable lint that could be obtained from a crop. According to the New Georgia Encyclopedia
The boll weevil greatly affected Georgia’s long history of cotton production between 1915, when the insect was introduced to Georgia, and the early 1990s, when it was eliminated as an economic pest. Yield losses associated with the boll weevil reduced cotton acreage from a historical high of 5.2 million acres during 1914 to 2.6 million acres in 1923. Although insecticides provided temporary relief, the cotton industry remained unprofitable, and planted acreage continued to decline, to a low of 115,000 acres in 1983. The boll weevil’s decimation of the cotton industry in the South had implications for the entire region. The pest was a driving force behind the “great migration” of poor tenant farmers into northern cities, and the state’s dependence on cash-crop production left its soil depleted and prone to erosion.