Back in 1968, the area in western Gwinnett known as Peachtree Corners was just acres and acres of rural undeveloped land with no power or telephone lines
The man who turned Paul Duke’s vision into executive neighborhoods in Peachtree Corners was Jim Cowart.Having developed and built homes in Dunwoody for years, Cowart came over to Peachtree Corners in the late 1970’s, not as a home builder, but as a land developer. He determined from Gwinnett County where the sewer treatment lift station would be and went upstream and bought everything he could afford. The first neighborhood in Peachtree Corners that Jim Cowart developed was Spalding Corners. Chattahoochee Station had gone bankrupt, so Cowart took that property over from a bank and finished developing that neighborhood. He began Peachtree Station in 1979, which developed out at 726 homes.
When Cowart came to Peachtree Corners, he had no competition; there were no re-sales to compete with the neighborhoods he was developing. America had just come through a recession and the demand for nice executive housing was growing. He was in the right place at the right time.
Cowart developed River Station, Revington, Linfield, and Amberfield. The neighborhoods of Riverfield and Wellington Lake were developed by Jim’s son, Dan Cowart, who was also responsible for locating Wesleyan School in Peachtree Corners. Jim Cowart tried for North River Crossing, but did not get that neighborhood. It was developed by Liberty Development Company. North Manor and Belhaven are Pulte developments.
Jim Cowart assembled 840 acres across the Chattahoochee River in North Fulton County and turned it into the Country Club of the South. Sugarloaf Country Club in Gwinnett County is closely patterned after Country Club of the South. According to Cowart, CCS moved high-end executive housing from Buckhead to North Fulton. Sugarloaf moved it from North Fulton to Gwinnett. Cowart acquired the land, which he subsequently sold, so River Exchange, Wetherburn Way, and the shopping center on Holcomb Bridge Road where Lenscrafters is located could be built.
In 1985, Cowart built the Farrell Creek sewer line, from the Wolf Creek pumping station to Farrell Creek, and up Farrell Creek to the east side of Highway 141. That sewer line is 17,000 feet, or three and one-half miles long, and did not cost the county a dime. Cowart secured all of the necessary easements and built the line that allowed sewer to serve the neighborhoods of Amberfield, Linfield, Riverfield, Wesleyan School, and the businesses in Spalding Triangle office park, Check Free, and The Forum.
In keeping with his belief that strong families need to have more than housing in their neighborhoods, Jim Cowart donated the land for the Peachtree Corners Baptist Church and their large parking lot that is across the street from the church. He also donated the land for the Robert D. Fowler Family YMCA and is still a large financial contributor to that facility.
If you have wondered about the name Pinckneyville that is seen in several places around Peachtree Corners, such as Pinckneyville Middle School, Pinckneyville Art Center, and Pinckneyville Soccer/Baseball Park, you will not be surprised to know that it has deep roots in this area's history.
Louis Bentley, owner of Bentley's Nursery at 3319 Medlock Bridge Road, said that the nearby four acres to his nursery used to be the site of the old Hunnicutt Inn. A self-storage warehouse is currently located on that richly historical spot.
From 1799, when the Hunnicutt Inn was used as a stagecoach stop until after the Civil War, the Pinckneyville Crossroads, where it was located, was the gateway to South Georgia for westerners with cattle to sell. This was on the route to Atlanta and farmers would stop here, bringing the harvest by horse and wagons from Dahlonega and North Georgia to the Atlanta market.
When he was a boy, Mr. Bentley remembers seeing what was left of the old inn, with the old shingle top, kudzu everywhere, and the well, which is filled in, but still there. The Hunnicutt Inn was put together with wooden pegs, the windows were in slides, and it had huge fireplaces. A trap door in the house led to a hiding place underneath the porch, a refuge from marauding Indians during the time of the uprisings.
Pinckneyville, two miles north of Norcross at the junction of Peachtree Road and an old Indian trail, was the oldest white settlement in this section of Georgia, the land being acquired from the Cherokees by treaty in 1818. Several Indian trails converged at Pinckneyville and gradually, a trading post was established. The actual geographical center of Pinckneyville is the intersection of Medlock Bridge Road, Old South Peachtree Road, and Spalding Drive. The Village Market and Nalley's mark that intersection today.
Mrs. C.M. Honour writes in the Gwinnett Sunday News on May 22, 1966,
"We do not know the name of the first white men who came here but legend is that they were the Jenkins
brothers. They finally built their home out near where Lake Berkeley now is and lived among the Indians...
To protect the new settlements on the frontier a road was cut in 1812 to connect Fort Daniel at Hog Mountain
to Fort Gilmer at the Standing Peachtree about 30 miles away on the bank of the Chattahoochee River. William Nesbit, Robert Young, and Isham Williams were commissioned to build this road. The contractors were paid
$150 for cutting the road. It was cut 12 feet wide and followed the old Peachtree trail and was called Peachtree Road, passing through what was later to be Pinckneyville. It immediately became the most important road in
this part of the state."
This area was opened for settlement by the Land Lottery of 1820. Those fortunate enough to draw lots began arriving soon after...They all brought their treasured 'Bees Wax' Deeds. Records show that the first families in here were the Medlocks, who settled four miles east of the crossroads between Buford Highway and the expressway.
Militia Districts were usually called by the name of the Commanding Captain. But one day Charles Pinckney of South Carolina stopped at the crossroads. As was the custom in those days, he was invited to dinner. He was so well liked by the settlers that they named their village for him. This was spelled exactly as he spelled it, but later the 'c' in the name was dropped. (And later still, the 'c' was put back.) Pinckney's main claim to fame may have been his defeat in the 1804 presidential election against Thomas Jefferson.
In 1827 Washington Academy was incorporated. This was for the children of the rich planters of the Chattahoochee Valley. It was about two miles west from the crossroads. Years afterwards, Shiloh Baptist Church was organized there.
About a quarter of a mile up Old Peachtree Road in 1828, the Methodists built their "Meeting House,' and called it Mt. Carmel. Of all the original institutions established here, this church (although not the same building) is the only one left. Many of the early settlers lie buried in this churchyard.
The coming of the railroad about 1870 to the little village of Norcross accomplished for them what the stagecoach line had done for Pinckneyville. The post office and court moved to Norcross.
Back in 1968, the area in western Gwinnett known as Peachtree Corners was just acres and acres of rural undeveloped land with no power or telephone lines and no sewer system. Today it is a prosperous model community of homes, schools, parks and businesses that provide a substantial portion of the county’s property tax digest.
Paul A. Duke is the man who envisioned this planned community where people could live, work, and play in the same quality controlled environment. In 1967, Duke, who managed a steel company, first thought of such a development when trying to figure out what to do with land he had purchased in the 1950’s. A Georgia Tech graduate with two engineering degrees, he envisioned a campus of low-rise buildings that would house low-pollution, high technology industries. As a member of the Georgia Tech National Advisory Board, he persuaded 16 others to invest $1.7 million to develop a business center that would raise funds for Tech’s foundation and supply local jobs for graduates in high technology fields. Technology Park Atlanta, Inc. was “born.”
In 1968, Duke established Peachtree Corners, Inc., a real estate and development company with a goal of creating a planned community, where people could live, work, and play. He coaxed top developers from throughout the country to work within a stringent set of covenants and restrictions established to control the quality and type of growth in the area. Duke said,
A Short History of Peachtree Corners...
by Gay Shook and Barbara Howard
“The real key to the success of the entire Peachtree Corners concept was the tremendous cooperation between
the county, the state, the business community, and the public in general.”
Always his focus remained upon creating a balance between living, working, and playing environments.
In 1999 Paul Duke was honored when the section of State Route 141 through Peachtree Corners, from Jimmy Carter Boulevard to the Gwinnett-Fulton County line, was designated as the “Paul Duke Parkway.”