When Abbie Parks isn’t hosting cocktail hour on the front porch of her historic Acworth home or jetting around Main Street with her tiny canine companion, Radar, she’s probably working to share her love for the city with others. That might mean welcoming 20,000 visitors into town for the annual Acworth ArtFest she helps organize, campaigning to preserve a historic landmark, or maybe even hosting her own miniature summer camp for her nine nieces and nephews. After Abbie moved to Acworth twenty-three years ago, her love for historic architecture evolved into a cause when she dedicated herself to preserving some of the city’s most notable and now-treasured sites, from a 19th century farmhouse to the now-iconic Old Mill. (She also takes credit for recruiting the one-and-only Mayor Allegood to live in Acworth.)
We caught up with Abbie to chat about her favorite pieces of hidden history in Acworth, and how she likes to share her beloved city with family, friends, and visitors:
What do you love about Acworth?
It’s small enough to be charming and it’s small enough to make a difference. I live in a historic home with heavy trees, and I can walk to five restaurants, my doctor, my drug store, my library, my bank, and my post office. But I can also be at the airport in 45 minutes, and I can be in the middle of Atlanta in a half hour. So I get to live the small town life, and enjoy a large metropolitan area without having to be in it. That’s got a lot of charm.
Tell us a little bit about your path to Acworth. When did you move here and how did you become so involved in the community?
Twenty-three years ago. I was going to semi-retire, and my husband and I wanted to move north of the city. I found that an 11-year-old girl and an 86-year-old mother-in-law don’t keep you busy enough. I got involved in the historic aspect because I lived in and had restored a historic home, and it just grew from there.
Have you always been interested in history?
Always. I grew up with a military father, and a very southern mother. So we had strong family Southern ties. I had spent 12 years in Charleston as a young bride, so I thought everybody understood history and the importance of preservation and economics. But Acworth was losing things, and I decided to be involved in trying to save them.
What are some of your favorite historic properties here?
I went to condemnation hearings probably four times for the Old Mill. And now it’s a beautiful, successful restaurant. That’s one of my favorites. I also love the Logan Farmhouse. It’s in its original setting, which from a historic preservation standpoint is huge, and it has a gorgeous, several hundred years-old oak out front. It had fallen into terrible disarray, but it’s exactly what the pioneers built when they came in the 1830s and 1840s. There was a tremendous amount of the original material intact. It had add-ons, but it had never compromised the original structure. It’s perfect for small weddings or rehearsal dinners.
Why are you passionate about preserving these properties?
For one, I think they’re beautiful. They have an innate charm. Everybody likes the feel of stepping back into time to a slower, happier time. But what I really love are the stories of the families who came here.
What’s the most interesting piece of lesser-known history you’ve uncovered?
We did a series of oral histories decades ago, and from an African-American woman, we found out that the little white schoolhouse she attended was a Rosenwald school. Rosenwald was the founder of Sears and Roebuck and a multi-millionaire living in Chicago. And in the early turn of the century, he read “Up from Slavery” by Booker T. Washington. He was so moved that he made arrangements to meet Booker T., and together they came up with the Rosenwald Fund to build schools. They built almost 6,000 schools across 15 states in the Deep South, and one of them was here. Originally there were 243 in Georgia. There are only about 20 left, and ours got the first of the National Trust grants. Don’t tell me that’s not big stuff!
If you could describe Acworth in a few words…
Southern. Wholesome. Family.
If you were to design a perfect day here for someone, what would it be?
In the summer, I would send them to the beach with a picnic, or a boxed lunch to-go from the Old Mill. If it’s a family, depending on how big the kids were, I’d either recommend the paddle boats, the canoes or kayaks. I would take them for a walk, if they’re old enough to do a historic walking tour — or we also have the self-guided walking tour you can download on your phone, which is fun. If they’re little kids, I’d send them over to Logan Farm Park, because that’s a great playground. But the lake has a good playground, too.