By Jan Murphy
A little bit of everything was going on in Big Canoe in 1972. That was the year when it all began. There were construction workers, cranes and trucks moving dirt to build one of the most unique communities in North Georgia.
When the developer, Tom Cousins, envisioned his second home community, he wanted it to be an unforgettable place where people came for the weekend. For it to be the ideal weekend retreat, there had to be something to do. Swimming, golfing, tennis, trails, lodging, shopping and good food were not only necessities in this once isolated place in the North Georgia mountains, but the combination had to be the ultimate experience to bring people back.
It’s hard to imagine, but during 1972-73 and into 1974, there was an 110-acre lake and dam being built along with octagon houses on stilts called Treetoppers, a condominium complex, swim club with a beach and lake, an 18-hole golf course, rock slide and tennis courts along with a general store and restaurant. Everything that anyone would need to entertain themselves for a long weekend. Big Canoe was a remarkably busy place!
The first restaurant was located at the top of the ridge in one of the Treetoppers on Buckskull. It was where Eunice Johnson’s home-made cooking became a mainstay at Big Canoe. Soon the small Treetopper restaurant could not accommodate the crowds. When the Village Station was built in 1973, a new restaurant was built among the chimneys left from the burned down home owned by the Tate family. It was only appropriate to call the new restaurant The Chimneys. The Chimneys opened for business in 1974.
In my conversations with Toby Jones, Kathleen Ingram, and Paul and Patsy Schmidt, they remembered not only the scrumptious food but also how it was served – family-style. In traditional family-style dining, food is served on platters and those around the table serve themselves, just like at home. It was a place where people could meet other people and built new friendships.
In Kathleen Ingram’s words, “Man, was that some kinda good cooking those ladies did back in the day. The fried chicken was just plain delicious, and the chocolate pudding/pie was to die for. Those were the days!”
After the first clubhouse was build in 1977, The Chimneys became a wedding and convention venue. The Chimneys has one of the most beautiful natural settings in North Georgia. Through the years, the Chimneys has been the place for many gatherings including some 150 dancers showing up for the big “Disco Party” in 2003.
To see more great images of the early days of Big Canoe, join the Facebook group, Big Canoe Historical Society. We are looking for folks to share their memories, images and any interesting trivia with the community. Please contact Jan Murphy at (678) 761-9414 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have information to share.
Author’s note: I want to thank Paul and Patsy Schmidt for sharing their Big Canoe experiences of the early days. Kathleen Ingram, the daughter of long-time resident Ken Rice has shared so many memories and experiences along with Toby Jones, a 42-year employee of Big Canoe. Without their contributions, I would not be able to write about the history of our community.