The Cobbnam Historic District [†] is a primarily residential neighborhood situated northwest of the central business district of Athens, Georgia, which has evolved from an almost rural setting for a few large homes and their dependencies in the years before the Civil War to a rather densely populated in-town neighborhood of single and multi-family dwellings and, increasingly, commercial and institutional intrusions.
The perception of what actually comprised Cobbham has changed over the years, making the delineation of exact boundaries virtually impossible. Originally, Cobbham consisted of the 50 lots offered for sale by John A. Cobb in 1834, "Immediately adjoining the upper part of the town of Athens, lying on both sides of the main road (now Prince Avenue) leading through Jefferson and Gainesville to the Gold Region." Augustus Longstreet Hull later described its location as generally lying between Barber Street on the east and Hill Street on the south. The separate identity of the area is confirmed in the early deed records which refer to the "Village of Cobbham."
After the Civil War, and subsequent growth in that section of town, the term Cobbham came to define a larger area. Sylvanus Morris, writing in 1912 of his memories of Athens in the early 1370's stated, "Cobbham is not accurately defined as to boundaries. It is roughly speaking all of the town west of Pulaski Street" (and implicitly north of Broad Street). This included much of the land surveyed and divided into lots by the University in 1833 to the south of Cobb's development.
In the years since Morris gave his broad description, development along Prince Avenue has tended to divide Cobbham into two sections, with that to the north taking on a separate identity as the Boulevard district. The boundaries of the Cobbham Historic District include most of the area of Cobb's original development south of Prince Avenue along with adjacent areas to the west and south that have long been associated with the neighborhood.
The appearance of Cobbham in ante-bellum days was largely rural in aspect, with its substantial houses and dependencies occupying entire blocks or even larger areas. The homes were for the most part Greek Revival, but the newer styles such as Gothic Revival were also in evidence.
Hull described Cobbham immediately after the Civil War as "a town in the woods. Forest trees stood here and there in the streets, which ungraded, rose and fell with the undulations of the adjoining lots. Every lot had its garden and the family cow was ubiquitous. No clattering milkman nor hacks, nor early trains disturbed the slumbers of early morn."
After the war, Cobbham's interrupted growth began anew, the pace of development increasing as the century drew to a close and continuing for a number of years thereafter with the architectural styles of buildings constructed in the district reflecting the changing tastes of the era. For 20 years following 1930 Cobbham languished, but the growth of Athens since 1950 has brought more change to the neighborhood. Increasingly, commercial intrusions have encroached on the district, a development which,
Cobbham, often called Athens' first "suburb", has been a desirable residential neighborhood for the wealthy as well as those of more moderate income throughout most of its history, with substantial, well-built houses, schools and churches lining trees, haded streets near the central business district of Athens. It counts among its residents many who have achieved prominence not only locally, but on state and national > levels as well as in such fields as law, politics, education, business, art, and medicine. While Cobbham retains much of its 19th and early 20th century character, it has become increasingly threatened by commercial intrusion and expansion by public and private institutions. The district contains several fine Greek Revival buildings, as well as representatives of the later Victorian era styles, and many early-20th century structures. A concerted effort is being made locally to preserve and enhance the character of this historic neighborhood.
The history of Athens, and thus the Cobbham neighborhood, has been significantly shaped by the University of Georgia. Indeed, much of the land comprising the Cobbham Historic District was included in the original 633 acres given to the state by John Milledge as a site for the University. Although the legislature had chartered the University in 1785, a location was not selected until the summer of 1801 when a committee chose the site at Cedar Shoals on the Oconee River in Jackson County, later Clarke, which was purchased by Milledge and called Athens- Over the years much of the original tract was sold or rented by the University to raise needed revenue, providing space for the growth of the town.
Athens grew rapidly in the 1820's but aside from farms along the Jefferson Road, there was virtually no development in the Cobbham area. That began to change in 1833 when the trustees of the University had a large section of their lands in that vicinity surveyed and laid off into lots for sale. In July of the following year, 1834, John A. Cobb advertised 80 lots for sale adjoining the town on the northwest and to the north of the previously surveyed University lots. A number of lots were sold by Cobb before he suffered financial reversals about 1840, after which time many of the remaining lota were sold by sheriff's sale to satisfy his debts.
Between 1834 and the Civil War a number of substantial homes with dependencies were built along newly opened streets. Although their neighborhood retained much of its rural character, the residents began to acquire some of the benefits of city living. In 1858, the fire engineers reported several cisterns had been constructed in Cobbham for fire protection and in 1860 the Southern Banner noted that the Athens Gas Light Company was preparing to extend its gas lines through Cobbham.
† James K< Reap> Athens-Clarke Heritage Foundation, Inc.; Norton R. McInvale, Manager , Historic Analysis Unit, National Register, Cobbham Historic District, nomination document, 1977, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
Billups Street North • Chase Street North • Church Street North • Cobb Street • Franklin Street North • Hancock Avenue West • Harris Street North • Hill Street • Hillcrest Avenue • Meigs Street • Milledge Avenue North • Prince Place • Reese Street • Route 15