By Louis Mayeux
Sandy Springs history lives and breathes for Kimberly Brigance.
“We’ve been a city for a couple of years, but we’ve been a community for almost 200,” said the curator of historic resources at Heritage Sandy Springs and co-author of a new book detailing the area’s story in pictures and text.
Co-written with local historian and lifelong Sandy Springs resident Morris Moore, “Images of America: Sandy Springs” contains “200 pictures from private collections that have never been seen before,” she said. “Most of them are before 1950. We’ve got early pictures of Sandy Springs schools, churches, the business district, special events and a lot of family pictures. I think it’s going to be fun.”
Brigance promises that the book will have “a lot of surprises that people weren’t aware of about Sandy Springs.”
The soft-cover book ($21.99) will be published Feb. 8 and available at Heritage Sandy Springs and local gift shops and bookstores.
Doing research for the book gave Brigance a couple of surprises. “I wasn’t aware that Sandy Springs used to have a convict camp on Roswell Road, roughly where Whole Foods is. Sandy Springs used to have several rock quarries. I certainly wasn’t aware of that.”
The convicts at the camp “lived in big cages on wheels.” The wheels allowed the cages to be transported to work sites, where the prisoners worked on chain gangs to build roads such as Powers Ferry and Heards Ferry. Rock from the quarries were used on the roads.
Native Americans who originally lived in the area chipped the rock, she said. Different companies later mined the quarries, which lasted until the 1950s. “The land was more valuable to fill in for homes,” she said. “After World War II, people started moving into the suburbs, the first little communities out here.”
The photographs in the book come from the Sandy Springs photo database, which includes “thousands” of images contributed by area residents. “A lot of local people are bringing in photos, maps and deeds that we were able to copy and use in the database. We still want those. We decided to use some of the photos to put together a really interesting book. We’re starting to eye a second book.”
The earliest photographs in the book date back to the dawn of photography, the 1860s and ‘70s, including portraits “of several boys who served the Confederacy.”
Sandy Springs, originally territory contested by the Cherokee Nation and Creek Confederacy, drew 19th century settlers who were mainly farmers. “It was very rural; people rarely had pictures, rarely had the opportunity to have them taken and rarely had money.”
In the mid to late 1870s to late 1880s, traveling photographers arrived. A Mr. Wing was a photographer and a singing master, giving instruction in Sacred Harp techniques. “We have him in two photos,” she said. Early group photos in the book show singing groups, churches, schools and families, many of whose descendants remain in the area.
At the turn of the century, families grew more affluent and could afford their own cameras, leading to the era of “candid photos” of people in cars and leisure and business activities. “People from Atlanta were moving to the area to build country homes, there was more money moving in. A lot of homes were being built for people wanting to get away from the big city.”
The book highlights the area’s continued growth as an Atlanta bedroom community and commercial area through the late 20th century until the successful campaign to create the City of Sandy Springs from the once unincorporated area.
Brigance sees the book as a product of the city’s community spirit, reflected in the database. “We’re lucky; we’ve had a lot of people working on this project.”