Ancient Rome, Italy, and its seven hills: Palatine, Capitoline, Quirinal, Viminal, Esquiline, Caelian, and Aventine.
Today, the modern City of Seven Hills, Rome, Georgia, includes Myrtle, Blossom, Clock Tower, Jackson, Lumpkin, and Old Shorter hills and Mount Aventine. Myrtle, Lumpkin, and Mount Aventine are cemeteries.
Rome and the surrounding area of Floyd County has a population of approximately 100,000 people. The city of Rome has a population of approximately forty thousand people in 2006. It has a mild climate year round with an average temperature of 72 degrees. Rome is between 650 and 1500 ft. above sea level and is located at the base of the Appalachian Mountains. It has one local newspaper, The Rome-News Tribune. Some of the finest schools are located in Rome. It has two major colleges, Berry and Shorter, and a Junior Technical College, Highland Rivers. The city and county public school systems are some of the finest in Georgia. Rome also has some excellent private schools.
Floyd County was formed December 3, 1832. Five men met at Alhambra, the antebellum columned home of Major Philip Hemphill. The house, one of the oldest in Floyd County, was built in 1832. The house still stands, and is the home to the President of Darlington School, a private school in Rome.
In May 1834, these men who originally thought they had discovered a peninsula at the base of three rivers founded Rome. Their idea was to build a town that would become a trade center using riverboats as the main transportation.
Each of the five men suggested a name for the new town. Legend says they placed their suggested names in a hat. Rome was the name chosen for the new town. Colonel Daniel R. Mitchell suggested the name, Rome, as he thought the city's topography mirrored that of ancient Rome, Italy, and its seven hills. Major Phillip Walker Hemphill favored the name, Hamburg. Colonel Zachariah B. Hargrove thought of Pittsburg. John H. Lumpkin preferred Warsaw. Colonel William Charles Smith put in the name, Hillsboro. Later he would start a town across one of the rivers and give it that name.
The next year Rome received its charter and the Floyd County seat was moved from Livingston to Rome and is still here today. Rome soon became the main river port between Gadsden, Alabama and Calhoun, Georgia. Boats as large as one hundred and seventy-five feet in length brought cargo, mail, and passengers into Rome. In 1839 the Rome Railroad was chartered. By 1860 Rome had a bank, a newspaper, a college, churches, and was a busy hub of trade.
During the Civil War Rome was used as a medical center, and wounded soldiers from both Union and Confederacy were brought into Rome for treatment. Hospitals were set up in churches and many of the buildings on Broad Street, the main central street of Rome. In May of 1864, Rome fell to the Union Forces under the command of General William T. Sherman. Soldiers of the Union Army occupied Rome until November of 1864. When General Sherman and his men departed, they set fire to many of the buildings. Those buildings Sherman spared were being used as hospitals.
Rome was rebuilt from its ashes. It is now the Medical Center of Northwest Georgia, home of the famous Harbin Clinic and its many subsidiaries, The Floyd Medical Center, and Redmond Regional Hospital.
Rome's three rivers, Etowah, Oostanaula, and Coosa, which first attracted its five founders, now provide a source of water for drinking, manufacturing, and recreation. Bridges which had been built across the three rivers made growth easier, and the small towns which had grown up across the rivers were annexed into Rome by the early part of the 20th Century.
An exact replica of the famous Etruscan statue of the Capitoline wolf nursing the orphaned twins, Romulus and Remus, was sent to Rome, Georgia in 1929, from Rome, Italy during the rule of Benito Mussolini. It still stands in front of City Hall on Broad Street. City Hall was also built in 1929. One of the twins was stolen in 1933. It was never found, but was replaced a few years later when Rome, Italy sent a duplicate of the twin.
Montgomery M. Folsom, in his poem, "Rome," wrote:
Pictured plains and verdant valleys
Flushed with glorious harvest hopes,
Blithe the balmy breeze that dallies
On thy bloom-embroidered slopes;
Opulent with promise springing
From the freshly-furrowed loam,
Jubilant the joy bells ringing
On thy hills, resplendent Rome!
Named for 600 crepe myrtle shrubs planted at the cemetery's inception, Myrtle Hill became Rome's new cemetery in 1857, replacing Oak Hill, which had served Rome since 1837. Myrtle Hill is listed on the National Register Of Historic Places. Before it became a cemetery, Myrtle Hill, located in what was then Hillsboro, was called Fort Stovall. Fort Stovall's vantage point was ideal for an artillery position during the Civil War. The hill towers over the Etowah River near its merging with the Oostanaula River, where both rivers form the Coosa River. Armament stockpiles once were kept inside a tunnel located at Fort Stovall's northern peak. The tunnel burrowed through Myrtle's center, exiting at the cemetery's southern slope, where Confederate and Union soldiers are now buried. Legend has it that the Battey mausoleum was built where the tunnels opening once was. The mausoleum holds the body of Dr. Robert Battey, a Rome surgeon recognized for performing the world's first oophorectomy, the surgical removal of the ovaries. The surgery took place in the Julia Omberg House, which is still located at 615 W. First St. behind City Hall. A lynch mob waited across the street to hang the doctor if the operation had failed. Julia Omberg lived many years after the surgery, finally dying of heart disease. Battey's mausoleum is Myrtle Hill's largest. A black and white photo at the Historical Museum shows a cavern-like entranceway on Myrtle Hill's then barren peak, where the mausoleum now stands. Before refrigeration was invented, Romans whose out-of-town relatives had died while visiting the city, asked for and were granted permission to store their loved one's bodies inside the mausoleum. More than forty bodies were never claimed and remain there today, according to a Greater Rome Convention and Visitors Bureau leaflet. The tunnel was eventually imploded, destroying any evidence that it ever existed. Myrtle Hill Cemetery has 25 acres of terraced slopes, manicured landscapes, hulking oak, crepe myrtles, magnolia trees, and elaborate monuments. Two of Rome's founders are buried at Myrtle Hill's northern peak. Daniel Mitchell of Canton, who named and planned Rome, and Zachariah B. Hargrove of Cassville. A large marble slab marks Hargrove's grave, but there is no actual record of him being buried there. Other notable Romans interred in Myrtle Hill are Ellen Louise Axson Wilson, a Rome native and the first wife of President Woodrow Wilson, 28th President of the United States of America, and Alfred Shorter, for whom Shorter College is named. He also sold the Myrtle Hill property to the city of Rome. America's Known Soldier, Charles Graves, is entombed in Myrtle Hill's northeast corner. The South Broad Street Bridge, which serves as the cemetery's access to central Rome, was named in Grave's honor in 2000. He was among the last U.S. casualties during World War I. It comes as no surprise that Romans would honor their dead atop Myrtle Hill's lofty perch. The hills protected the buried from floods, which were a frequent occurrence before the levee system was built around Rome's central business district in the late 1930s. Two additional hills in Rome also serve as cemeteries: Mount Aventine and Lumpkin Hill.
Named after ancient Rome's Mount Aventine, this four acre enclave sits between South Broad Street and the Etowah River. It was developed in 1875. An iron and stone historical marker stands in the center of the neighborhood along Lookout Circle. In the mid 1800s, workers at the Noble Foundry, an armament manufacturer located at East First Avenue where Southeastern Mills now sits, test-fired cannons across the Etowah River into Aventine's northern ridge. In Roger Aycock's book, "All Roads Lead To Rome," the former Rome News-Tribune reporter and local historian wrote: "Rusted relics of Civil War days, these balls once whistled daily across the river when each newly made cannon was test-fired to prove its accuracy."
Apart from those rusted relics, Aventine's hidden treasure is a Jewish cemetery dating back to the early 1800s. It is located at the hill's highest point. Looking north from Mount Aventine toward Eighth Avenue and Riverside Parkway, Oak Hill Cemetery, central Rome's third hilltop respite, lies in the distance.
Though highway workers during Turner McCall Boulevards construction in 1956 leveled Lumpkins peak, the cemetery remains intact. A stone wall boundary lines Riverside Parkway across from the Rome-Floyd County Library, behind Applebees Restaurant and Kentucky Fried Chicken. John H. Lumpkin, one of Romes founders, born June 13, 1813, and died, July 10, 1860, is buried there. A monument, about 20 feet tall, stands over his burial plot. After Lumpkin Hill was dismantled by workers, its dirt was used to reinforce a foundation for the Holiday Inn, now the Ramada Inn, across Turner McCall Boulevard. It also helped fortify the levee along the Oostanaula River at the Kirkland Bridge.
In the early 1800s, both Blossom and Jackson hills were covered with peach orchards. Although three of Rome's seven hills provide safe havens for Rome's deceased, three more have provided life to a thriving mountain metropolis. Clock Tower Hill and Jackson Hill both have supported Rome's water reserves in the past. And today, Blossom Hill's Bruce Hamler Water Treatment Plant, named for a former city manager, handles about 10 million gallons per day from the Oostanaula and Etowah Rivers, giving thirsty Romans a safe and ample water supply. The hill, which adjoins Jackson Hill from the north, overlooks the city's public works complex on Vaughn Road. The Hamler plant was built in 1939, and was upgraded in 1955.
George MacGruder Battey Jr., a descendent of Dr. Robert Battey, wrote in his book, "A History Of Rome And Floyd County":
"Many years ago, Blossom Hill was founded by Mrs. Mary Shephard, a former slave, and her daughter, Maggie. The exact year is not known. After emancipation, Mary and Maggie were wandering in search of shelter and food. They stopped at a house in North Rome and asked for food. It was the home of Judge J. Reece. The judge and his wife gave the mother and daughter food and jobs as maids. While Mary and her daughter lived with the judge, they would pick blossoms from trees on a nearby hill. Mary named it, Blossom Hill."
Jackson Hill encompasses about 50 acres around Reservoir Street and Dogwood Drive in the eastern part of Rome, situated on the south end of Blossom Hill. Before the Rome Convention and Visitors Bureau and Coosa Valley Regional Development Center located there in the late 1970s, the hill held Fort Norton from 1863-1864, according to a city sponsored development plan. Fort Norton was named for Charles B. Norton, according to Gilbert Smith's Historical Narrative of Fort Norton/Jackson hill. Norton was killed at the first battle of Manassas during the Civil War. Smith also wrote that a Jackson family owned most of the surrounding property, hence the name, Jackson Hill. Its wooded peaks shelter entrenchments and earthworks left from Confederate soldiers who fought approaching Union troops during the Civil War. Plans to develop the hill into a park and nature preserve are ongoing. The city hopes to develop theme trails highlighting the areas history: the Civil War, Works Progress Administration during the great depression and the site of Rome's waterworks. The Jackson Hill Waterworks opened March 24, 1894. It replaced a water reservoir housed in Rome's Clock Tower. Jackson was abandoned in 1967, but remnants of the old structure still remain. The Rome Civic Center also is located on Jackson Hill. Its stone facade reflects an architectural era made popular by the Works Progress Administration during the depression. Several historic markers can be found outside the Visitors Center.
OLD SHORTER HILL
What began as the Cherokee Baptist Female College in 1843 was renamed Shorter Female College in 1877. Alfred Shorter of Washington, GA, moved to Rome with his wife, Martha, in 1837. She was five years older than he, and a widow who had inherited $40,000. from her deceased husband. Shorter turned out to be a successful businessman, according to historical records, and he contributed $6,000 towards construction for the First Baptist Church in Rome. As a result, the female college, which eventually became Shorter College, was founded in the churches basement. Shorter College was located in downtown Rome, in the Between The Rivers District between Third and College Avenues. The presidents house, Bellevue, is all that is left of the original campus. It is now the home of Dr. Hugh H. Hanson, a retired physician and his wife, Ann, a Rome native. They restored the Victorian-style house in 1985. Most of its original hardware, including glass paned windows and a twist-style brass doorbell are still in use. Hanson said the original Shorter College was eventually demolished on site and buried within the hill. Shorter's gymnasium once stood in the middle of Hanson's cul-de-sac. He said the school's top floors burned in a fire, and the building eventually outlived its usefulness, so the high school was moved down the street. Fortress-like stone walls left from the college line Third Avenue today. Wrought iron gates and a three-tiered steel stairwell that once led to the school now lead to the new neighborhood. Shorter College today is one of the finest musical schools in the United States.
CLOCK TOWER HILL
October 7, 1872 the clockworks arrived in Rome, Georgia for the new water tower on Neely Hill. The 9' diameter clock face would become a source of pride for the city's inhabitants. The Clock Tower is Rome's most easily recognized historical landmark. Clock Tower Hill aka Neely Hill is Rome's most visible hill when entering the downtown area of the city. In 1872, James Noble's Foundry built Rome's first centrally located waterwork's system. It is the same foundry that fired cannonballs into Mount Aventine on the hill. When the waterworks moved to Jackson Hill, a 250,000 gallon, 63-foot-tall tank left behind provided an ideal base for the clocks brick decagon superstructure. The inside of the tower has since been turned into a museum and features a painted mural. A spiral staircase, totaling 107 steps, winds around the tanks brick outer wall to an observation deck. The tower, which includes the clock works and four faces, (each face points a different direction) is 104 feet tall.
Rome is packed with history. Martha Berry used her wealth and resources to build a school for poor mountain children in Northwest Georgia in 1902. She intended for anyone who wanted to go to college to be able to attend by working their way through on the Berry College campus. Visitors can see the Berry family home, Oak Hill, which houses a collection of art and exhibits and memorabilia associated with Martha Berry and the school. Oak Hill and its Martha Berry Museum is located at the entrance of the intersection of Veterans Parkway and Highway 27, just east of Berry College's main entrance.
The Rome Area History Museum located at 303 Broad Street in the downtown area is a definite must-see for any visitor to Rome or North Georgia. Exhibits are organized chronologically, the visitors are taken from Floyd County's original inhabitants, the Cherokee Indians, to the founding of Floyd County, and the city of Rome, Georgia. Through original blueprints, maps, and many photographs one can watch as Rome is built and grows during the 1800s. Before it became Rome, it was known as Chiaha, the home of the Cherokee Indians. Their leader was a wealthy Cherokee trader named Major Ridge. Ridge's home on Riverside Parkway is now the Chieftain Museum.
There are many recreational parks in and around Rome. Swan Lake offers RV hookups for visitors who are camping. Rome is the city where three rivers meet in the downtown area, and the mountains begin in northwestern Georgia in the center of Floyd County. Its hills and mountains offer reveal a historical past and genuine potential for all who live here now. Our new mantra is, "Only good now comes to Rome."
One thing Rome definitely needs is more stores and rental housing. If you are involved with building homes or stores, look into building them in the northern part of Rome in the Veteran's Parkway and Hwy. 53 area as there is much land available and a tremendous need for apartments, homes, grocery stores, shopping centers, and restaurants in this area.
Would you builders please start building nice apartment complexes all across the USA just for non-smoking adults who are clean and quiet please? I promise you every unit would be rented if you do that because people are just so tired of noisy neighbors who are inconsiderate of others and trash the property. Please start in Rome, GA. I would be happy to become one of your first tenants, and put a complementary link on my website to it.
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