Helens, Georgia, is a small town hidden away in the Blue Ridge Mountains on the Chattahoochee River. By the 1960's, the town found themselves suffering a failing gold mining and timber industry. There was nothing left except a dreary row of concrete block structures. In 1968, local businessmen met to discuss what could be done to improve their town. They approached a nearby artist friend, who had been stationed in Germany and fell in love with the Bavarian villages he saw there. He quickly sketched the buildings, added gingerbread trim, details and colors to the buildings, giving an Alpine look to the entire town. By January of 1969, business owners and local carpenters began turning ideas into reality. Now all downtown stores have been renovated and many buildings and cobblestone alleyways added. Faces of buildings were painted with scenes of Bavaria and North Georgia, mirroring the migration of early settlers. Today Helens, Georgia is an extremely successful tourist destination that draws visitors from around the world.
What's stopping something similar from taking place in Maysville, Kentucky? Honestly, nothing too dreadful. In fact, Maysville has a head start that places it in a much better position than 1960's Helens. Looking through Maysville's list of buildings in the historic district, you can quickly see a pattern of when they were built: 1820, 1830, 1848, 1876, and so on. Where Helens had to invent an identity (an Alpine village despite their rich history linked to the Cherokee Indians), Maysville has one pre-built. Many of the original structures downtown maintain their nineteenth century charm to this day. What is needed is the something Helens had that Maysville lacks: a group effort to run with this community identity and turn it into something bankable.
Don't forget to visit the Mid-19th Century Day, Saturday Oct. 14th. on Court Street. Every good idea has to start somewhere.