More than just a housing complex.


Cradled in the ancient Blue Ridge Mountains, near the North and Middle Oconee Rivers lies Athens, Georgia, a flourishing city of unparalleled beauty and culture. Habitation of the site dates back to an ancient Cherokee settlement at Cedar Shoals on the Oconee River. Athens is in Clarke County, which was founded on December 5, 1801 and named for heroic Elijah Clarke. Clarke County originally Jackson County, included parts of both Madison and Green counties in addition to present-day Oconee County.

The City of Athens was incorporated on December 8, 1806. The University of Georgia had commenced classes in 1801, and the city was respectfully named in honor of the center of intellectual wealth that had been the heart of classical Greece. Elegant homes quickly sprang up around the new campus and the cultural and social life surrounding the college began to attract families of prosperity and national stature. At that time, industry rapidly grew, primarily that of cotton, brick works, textile mills, and railroad transportation. Several hotels opened in the mid-nineteenth century. The Newton House, our 191 building, located at the corner of College and Broad Streets became the Commercial Hotel in the late 19th century. The Southern Mutual Insurance Company, now the Fred Building, developed by Young Harris, moved their headquarters from Griffin to Athens in 1848. The Southern Mutual Insurance Company was one of the first firms to offer insurance in Georgia and offered policies for life, fire, and marine.

An early downtown residence that remains today is the c.1820 Church Waddell-Brumby House on Dougherty Street, which was moved from its original lot on the north side of Hancock between Jackson and Thomas streets and now serves as the Athens Welcome Center. Albon Chase, founder of the Southern Banner/Banner Herald, built his house on North Hull Street in 1840 which is currently owned by our founder. The two buildings stand today at the western edge of downtown.


The Fred Building

Originally the athens commerce building

Lately, some folks have started to call it the Fred Building, after our founder. Times have changed, but much of the inside of the building bears a striking resemblance to its earliest days. Intricately laid tile and hardwood floors remain. The marble walls and stairs - which were quarried, numbered and transported so that the pieces were hung to match up exactly - are still there. To some it's the Southern Mutual Building. Others call it the Commerce Building. Whatever you call the Neoclassical style treasure, it's Athens' first skyscraper and the largest ferro concrete building in the South, according to an article in the Athens Historian by Upshaw Bentley. Jr. Atlanta architect, Haralson Bleckley, designed the building that would become the headquarters of the Southern Mutual Insurance Company. Ask old-timers their memories of the building and they'll likely mention a favorite Southern Mutual tenant: The Costa Family Soda Fountain, which operated from 1908 to 1939. Bentley's law firm Milner, Stephens & Bentley moved into the building in 1952 after waiting for years for a vacancy, they remained there until 1982. The Fred’s Historic Properties apartments occupy the second floor, where many original architectural details remain from what was once the executive offices of Southern Mutual. They include: original light fixtures, heart pine floors, wavy glass, mail shoots and a safe.

Old Albon Chase.jpg

Albon Chase House



Built in 1840-41, the Albon Chase House is significant not only for its simplicity with classical design, but also as the home of one of 19th century Athens' most prominent citizens. Albon Chase (1808-67), builder of the house, was born in New Hampshire and came to Athens in the 1830's. He bought and edited an Athens' newspaper, renamed the Southern Banner, ancestor of the present Athens Banner-Herald. Chase was also general agent and secretary for the Southern Mutual Insurance Company, a leading Athens' business. Albon Chase bought the unimproved lot, site of the Chase House, in July 1840 and sold the property in 1860. From 1888 to 1906 the house was owned by the (First) Presbyterian Church of Athens, founded 1821, serving as its manse. The present church building, three blocks away of Greek Revival style, is itself one of the outstanding buildings in Athens (built 1855). The significance of the house's architectural worth is found in its four-square simplicity, reminiscent of some Federal buildings, yet soundly within the Greek Revival style with its fine temple form Doric portico and classical cornice and door treatments. Its comfortable, moderate size offers a refreshing contrast to the ostentatious dimensions of most of its surviving contemporaries. Also on the property, to the rear of the house, is what probably once was a summer kitchen or servants' quarters. This structure, now adjoined to another building, has also been converted into apartments


191 Building

The old e.l. newton building

E.L. Newton built this building, which at the time was Athens' first hotel. This structure housed the hotel until the 1920's, known then as the Commercial Hotel because of the commercial shops located on the first floor the name subsequently changed to the Colonial Hotel and lastly named the Cherokee Hotel. The old Newton building housed the world renowned Varsity restaurant serving its famous chili dogs from 1932 until its closing in 1978. The present facade is one of the colonial revival style.

400 Building

originally a mercantile store

This block was once the location of an Athens butcher who, under contract, fed downtown cats kept by local shopkeepers to combat the rodent population