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Fridays at the Museum: Buford, the Leather City

The Museum of Buford recently moved from it's basement home on Main Street into the new Buford Community Center. As of October 1st, 2012, the Museum is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thurs--Sat.

Did you know that Buford was once considered "a thriving metropolis," and was even known as "the New York of Gwinnett County"? And did you know that during the Depression when towns across the country were struggling, Buford flourished, all due to the leather industry and one family in particular?

If you are a Buford native, you no doubt learned about the town's past in school. Even if you are not Buford born, but someone interested in the history of where you live, you may have already heard or read something about the Allen family. Whatever your connection to Buford, if you're local, there's a good chance you've at least seen the old Tannery building or the Bona Allen mansion. Wanting to bring a fresh perspective to readers, when I began writing this blog I purposely didn't go into the most well known and influential aspects of Buford's history--the Bona Allen Tannery and the family who founded it.

Questions about Buford from out of state friends who read my blog (Ten barbershops in a 2 block radius? There must have had a lot of hair to cut!) have prompted me to finally begin addressing these very important aspects of Buford's past. And of course, a sizable portion of the museum's exhibits deal with the Allen family and the town's long history in the leather industry.


As interesting as they are, rather than quote facts about the town, I'm including a 7 minute video with this post that gives an overview of the history of Buford. The video is also available for viewing at the museum, along with videos about other historical aspects of the town and it's surrounding areas.The script for the video was written by Museum of Buford curator, Lynn Bowman, and is narrated by David Doerrier. 

In future posts I will be sharing more about the museum's exhibits from the leather industry in Buford, as well as writing in more detail about the Tannery and the Allen family.

And since Veteran's Day was this week...Buford and War:

Supporting the troops during both world wars was of utmost importance to Buford citizens. During WWI local organizations such as the YMCA and Salvation Army were extremely active in raising funds to support the troops. The Buford Red Cross had the highest number of members in the county, preparing bandages and other needed items for the war effort. Buford was also the first town in Georgia to have all of it's school children purchase Liberty Bonds. 

Home front  support of the military was equally important to Buford citizens during WWII. Besides exceeding quotas in war bond and saving stamp purchases, Buford organizations raised money by selling scrap or sewing clothing for the troops. Local families had family members fighting in the war, with Buford seeing it's share of both fallen sons and returning heroes. Two Buford women also joined the service in 1942, a time "when this was considered unusual and somewhat daring." And, like the rest of the country, Buford had  Victory gardens, gas and food rationing, and women joining the workforce to fill manpower shortages.*

An early 1940s Green and White, the official newspaper of Buford High School, reported that the local American Legion was sponsoring a poster contest for "Poppy Day" (an old nickname for Veteran's Day).  The rules for the contest included "colors in keeping with the subject," "no more than 10 words used," and although the terms "Auxiliary or American Legion" were acceptable, the word "Buddy" was not. The grand prize for the winning poster was $1. 

I will be sharing more about the Green and White next blog post. It's a fascinating microcosm of what was happening in Buford from the mid 1930's--1950's. 

Rebecca
*This, and all other historical information in this post, are from Handsel G. Morgan's Historic Buford (City of Buford, 1993) on sale at the museum and City Hall for $35.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Rebecca Bradshaw November 14, 2012 at 06:43 PM
Glad you enjoyed it, Angelica. I figured the video was the easiest way to get an overview of the history of Buford out there. The Shoe Factory stopped producing in 1981 when the fire destroyed most of the buildings. The whole area around Buford was once farmland, but of course all that gave way to industry over time, though I'm sure there must be some still around. Have you checked out the Tannery website? It tells a lot about the artist community in Buford. The museum has a large collection of art from local artists, and I'll be writing a blog within a few weeks about the forming of the art colony in Buford back in the 80's. Thanks again for your comment!
Angelica Peach November 14, 2012 at 08:35 PM
You are very welcome, Rebecca. That sounds Perfect ~ just what I would enjoy learning about! I have seen the Tannery site and even stopped by their office downtown a couple of times but it wasn't open. Unfortunately, I missed going to 'The Bloom Market' last weekend, where I could have met many local artists. I asked about the shoe factory because when I was down there, I saw some kind of workers going in and out? Perhaps, a mystery to be solved ~ ; - ))
Kristi Reed November 15, 2012 at 03:20 AM
The video is awesome (and the blog too of course!). I had no idea who owned those gorgeous houses. I love that Greek Revival. If either of you are interested, here are a couple of articles I wrote many years ago for the Neighborhood News that reference the Bona Allen Factory and its history: http://home.comcast.net/~klreed/index_files/Page338.htm http://home.comcast.net/~klreed/index_files/Page681.htm
Rebecca Bradshaw November 15, 2012 at 12:21 PM
Interesting articles, Kristi.Thanks for sharing! I didn't know that's how the statue was funded. I'll eventually be doing a blog about it, and about the beautiful old homes.The sad thing is so many of those old homes, especially along Church and South Lee, were torn down to make way for gas stations. Lynn Bowman lived in and restored the Victor Allen house, and just recently sold it.
Angelica Peach November 16, 2012 at 05:45 PM
Thank you for posting your articles, Kristi. It has been enlightening learning about Buford, which seems to be rich in history and tradition. Every city has its past and a story, just like people. And that is what makes each of us so unique!

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