Sam Burnham, Curator
Sometimes you find a place that just grabs you. I first wandered into Talking Rock close to 20 years ago and I’ve been infatuated with it ever since.
This is the epitome of a small town. Roughly 70 people live on the 0.2 square miles designated as the town of Talking Rock. The 1890 census, the first in town history, counted 141 residents. The number has never been that high since.
Despite the low population the town has a fine creek side park. The park offers public restrooms and a covered picnic area as well as open air tables with charcoal grills. There’s a playground for the kids and lots of shade trees. It’s a beautiful setting with a good design. It’s the sort of place you want to visit and so people do.
The business district, so to speak, features a row of businesses along the west side of Georgia 136. A parking area, a few train cars, and another small covered pavilion sit between the west side of 136 and the railroad tracks.
It’s a special feeling to hear a rooster crowing as you stand on the downtown sidewalk. There’s no overzealous HOA administrator dragging out some draconian zoning ordinance. There’s just the call to poultry prayer echoing through town as you admire the regulation horseshoe pits outside the local woodworking shop. Yes, there’s a woodworking shop right downtown. There are antique and vintage stores and Town Hall. The old school is preserved as a museum. A red caboose welcomes you to town.
A sign for the Tater Patch Players suggests there’s a theatre troupe in town. Although this year’s event is cancelled do to the COVID, the annual Heritage Days festival is celebrated each fall. What you’re seeing is a complex culture. You can’t find this just anywhere. Fancy facilities and large population can’t guarantee such a culture. This is born out of a sense of place, civic pride, and a love of home.
There are plans in the works to open a craft brewery in town. This could attract some outside attention and bring money into the local economy. Hopefully it will do so without destroying the peace and tranquility this town offers visitors. While a short drive to Jasper is needed to get necessities such as gas, groceries, and household goods, the balance here is delicate and even a little development could wreck it.
A visit to Talking Rock is just a small detour off the Zell Miller Parkway between Atlanta and Blue Ridge. It is well worth the time. Go visit, shop, look around, breathe it in. But tread lightly. It would not take many newcomers to ruin this place. There aren’t many like it.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire