Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Something Special for Gwinnett

Rick Badie, a columnist at the Atlanta Journal Constitution, recently wrote a column about Gwinnett County's need to have something comparable to Chattanooga's marvelous Riverfront area with it's charming architecture, aquarium, museums, restaurants, and shops. His next column featured feedback from yours truly, and others, indicating that one option could be that Gwinnett County "...should work to be the best suburb we can be, instead of working to be a city."

I've been thinking about what we could do to create something or someplace special for Gwinnett County and thought I'd share my musings.

First off, there are the major categories of things we could do, such as:

  • History
    • Historical Museums
    • Living History Centers
    • Historical Sites

  • Science & Technology
    • Science & Natural History Museums
    • Planetariums
    • Industry & Technology Museums

  • Fine Arts & Crafts
    • Art Museums
    • Theatres
    • Cinemas
    • Performing Arts Centers
    • Craft Museums

  • Nature
    • Zoos
    • Aquariums
    • Wildlife Parks
    • Aboretums

  • Parks & Recreation
    • Parks for Hiking, Camping, Picnicing
    • Water Sports Areas
    • Hunting & Fishing Areas
    • Amusement Parks

  • Sports
    • Professional & Semi-Pro Sports Teams
    • Playing Fields
    • Golf Courses
    • Sports Amusement Centers

  • Retail & Restaurants
    • Mega-Malls
    • Outlet Malls
    • Retail Destinations (IKEA, Bass Pro Shop)
    • Restaurant Districts
    • Bars, Clubs, Nightlife

  • One of a Kind Attractions
    • Natural Attractions (Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, Stone Mountain)
    • Corporate Attractions (World of Coke, CNN Center Tours)
    • Unique Music (Nashville, New Orleans)
    • Halls of Fame (Cooperstown, NASCAR)

Looking at what's available within driving distance of Gwinnett County we've got Fernbank, the High Museum, ZooAtlanta, the new aquarium, Stone Mountain, Six Flags, the Gladiators and Bulldogs and much more. It would be great to have a real performing arts center for the county, but I'm confident that will happen in time -- and it's not like we can't get to Chastain Park from here.

In many ways, our greatest strength is that we're between so many great attractions. We're close to the Georgia mountains and Lake Lanier. We're not that far from golf at Augusta or the shore near Savannah. Athens is near at hand and Buckhead is an easy drive except during rush hour. We've got it good here.

I did come up with a decent idea for a one of a kind attraction for Gwinnett, however. It's not something that would give us the same sense of place as Chattanooga's riverfront, but it would be a one-of-a-kind attraction that should give people a reason to stop in Gwinnett County and stay here for at least a day.

Recently my family and I visited Wales, where my mother's grandmother was born. Near Cardiff, the capital, there's a fascinating place called the Museum of Welsh Life. The museum is situated on 100 acres of former farm land and includes buildings from all across Wales representing several hundred years of history. Visitors stroll from building to building and enjoy the difference slices of Welsh life and history represented by the individual homes, meeting halls, farm buildings, shops, and factories.

The Museum of the Family
My suggestion for Gwinnett is that we could adopt a similar approach to create a world-class Museum of the Family on a large site in the county where we could put examples of the homes used by everyday people of various backgrounds from around the world and across thousands of years of history. We could have Native American homes from the time of the Mississippian Moundbuilders through the Cherokees' trail of tears. We could have colonial log cabins and West African-inspired shotgun houses with porches and immigrant tenements and Levittown-style tract homes. We could have 19th century farm houses, sharecropper shacks, Southwest adobe dwellings and Midwestern sod homes, plus houses representing slices of 20th century life in each decade illustrating just how much things changed in that momentous 100 years.

The focus would be on family life -- how people lived, worked, ate, slept, learned, practiced their faith, amused themselves, and more. We could start small with just a few building and grow it year by year. It would be affordable for small groups to sponsor a new home and time period that might fit with their own heritage or history. Over time, as the site filled in, we'd have something quite special -- without the need to spend a lot of money up front. We'd preserve history that might otherwise be lost and could connect the families of today with the families of the past in ways that reading books about the subject couldn't match.

The Museum of the Family would also celebrate what's central to Gwinnett County -- families. I admit I think it would be an education for many of our citizens to see just what family values were different in the past and which ones have stayed the same. Still, I think that this is a project that both liberals and conservatives can support. Kids growing up on Game Boys and the Internet with their own bedrooms and cell phones need to see how children in other cultures and times lived. They could even act as living history guides at the museum in the summer.

Creating a Museum of the Family has some real merit. I think it's a project we should consider to help build something truly special for Gwinnett County.


Blogger the reverend mommy said...

And there are a few things in Gwinnett -- like the Winn House, Lanier Science Museum, the Grayson Art and History center.

Of course, what I feel is missing is a good theatre company with their own venue. New London is good for community theatre, but with 80 companies in the area and only two (count 'em, two) that are Equity, we could use another good professional theatre company. Actor's Express, Dad's Garage, Theatrical Outfit, Horizon, Theatre Gael all come pretty durn close to Equity quality, but none perform out this way. I wonder why?

And Gwinnett could use a few more *good* resturants. The Applebee's, Ruby Tuesday's and that ilk just don't flip my bits anymore.....

10:47 PM  
Blogger Cogit8tor said...

I agree with your thoughts on theatre but don't feel that having an Equity theatre is as important as having theatre that's accessible to young people and families. I'll drive into Atlanta if I want to see non-family-oriented theatre. The theatre companies are following their market.

As for restaurants, I've been impressed by many of the non-chain restaurants I've tried in Gwinnett County. Lavender on the left heading north on GA124 from Webb Gin House Road has good higher-end Chinese, we've found several nice Thai places, and BiBa's and Uncle Vito's pizza are slices of NY/NJ in Georgia. The oriental delights of Buford Highway aren't that far away, either. We had a lovely meal at Com, a Vietnamese grill at 4005 Buford Highway in Atlanta. And Dominicks in Norcross does some amazing things with garlic!

7:50 AM  

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