Athens, Georgia facts for kids
Quick facts for kids
Athens City Hall
"The Classic City"
Location in Clarke County and the state of Georgia
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|As Town||December 1806|
|As City||August 24, 1872|
|Named for||Athens, Greece|
|• Consolidated city–county||118.10 sq mi (305.87 km2)|
|• Land||116.33 sq mi (301.29 km2)|
|• Water||1.77 sq mi (4.58 km2)|
|Elevation||636 ft (194 m)|
|• Consolidated city–county||127,315|
|• Rank||218th in the United States
6th in Georgia
|• Density||1,094.43/sq mi (422.57/km2)|
|• Metro||215,415 (212th)|
|Time zone||UTC−5 (EST)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC−4 (EDT)|
Athens, officially Athens–Clarke County, is a consolidated city–county and college town in the U.S. state of Georgia. Athens lies about 70 miles (110 kilometers) northeast of downtown Atlanta, and is a satellite city of the capital. The University of Georgia, the state's flagship public university and an R1 research institution, is in Athens and contributed to its initial growth. In 1991, after a vote the preceding year, the original City of Athens abandoned its charter to form a unified government with Clarke County, referred to jointly as Athens–Clarke County.
As of 2020, the U.S. Census Bureau's population of the consolidated city-county (all of Clarke County except Winterville and a portion of Bogart) was 127,315. Athens is the sixth-largest city in Georgia, and the principal city of the Athens metropolitan area, which had a 2020 population of 215,415, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Metropolitan Athens is a component of the larger Atlanta–Athens–Clarke County–Sandy Springs Combined Statistical Area.
The city is dominated by a pervasive college town culture and music scene centered in downtown Athens, next to the University of Georgia's North Campus. Major music acts associated with Athens include numerous alternative rock bands such as R.E.M., the B-52's, Widespread Panic, Drive-By Truckers, of Montreal, Neutral Milk Hotel, and Harvey Milk. The city is also known as a recording site for such groups as the Atlanta-based Indigo Girls. The 2020 book Cool Town: How Athens, Georgia, Launched Alternative Music and Changed American Culture describes Athens as the model of the indie culture of the 1980s.
- Arts and culture
- Sister cities
- Notable people
In the late 18th century, a trading settlement on the banks of the Oconee River called Cedar Shoals stood where Athens is located today. On January 27, 1785, the Georgia General Assembly granted a charter by Abraham Baldwin for the University of Georgia as the first state-supported university. Sixteen years later, in 1801, a committee from the university's board of trustees selected a site for the university on a hill above Cedar Shoals in what was then Jackson County. On July 25, John Milledge, one of the trustees and later governor of Georgia, bought 633 acres (256 ha) from Daniel Easley and donated it to the university. Milledge named the surrounding area Athens after the city that was home to the academy of Plato and Aristotle in Greece.
The first buildings on the University of Georgia campus were made from logs. The town grew as lots adjacent to the college were sold to raise money for the additional construction of the school. By the time the first class graduated from the university in 1804, Athens consisted of three homes, three stores and a few other buildings facing Front Street, now known as Broad Street. Completed in 1806 and named in honor of Benjamin Franklin, Franklin College was the University of Georgia's and the City of Athens' first permanent structure. This brick building is now known as Old College.
Athens officially became a town in December 1806 with a government made up of a three-member commission. The university continued to grow, as did the town, with cotton mills fueling the industrial and commercial development. Athens became known as the "Manchester of the South" after the city in England known for its mills. In 1833 a group of Athens businessmen led by James Camak, tired of their wagons getting stuck in the mud, built one of Georgia's first railroads, the Georgia, connecting Athens to Augusta by 1841, and to Marthasville (now Atlanta) by 1845. In the 1830s and 1840s, transportation developments combined with the growing influence of the University of Georgia made Athens one of the state's most important cities as the antebellum era neared the height of its development. The university essentially created a chain reaction of growth in the community which developed on its doorstep.
During the American Civil War, Athens became a significant supply center when the New Orleans armory was relocated to what is now called the Chicopee building. Fortifications can still be found along parts of the North Oconee River between College and Oconee St. In addition, Athens played a small part in the ill-fated Stoneman Raid when a skirmish was fought on a site overlooking the Middle Oconee River near what is now the old Macon Highway. As in many southern towns, there is a Confederate memorial. It is located on Broad Street, near the University of Georgia Arch.
During Reconstruction, Athens continued to grow. The form of government changed to a mayor-council government with a new city charter on August 24, 1872, and Captain Henry Beusse became the first mayor of Athens. Henry Beusse was instrumental in the rapid growth of the city after the Civil War. After holding the position of mayor he worked in the railroad industry and helped to bring railroads to the region creating growth in many of the surrounding communities. Freed slaves moved to the city. Many were attracted by the new centers for education such as the Freedmen's Bureau. This new population was served by three black newspapers: the Athens Blade, the Athens Clipper, and the Progressive Era.
In the 1880s, as Athens became more densely populated, city services and improvements were undertaken. The Athens Police Department was founded in 1881 and public schools opened in fall of 1886. Telephone service was introduced in 1882 by the Bell Telephone Company. Transportation improvements were also introduced with a street paving program beginning in 1885 and streetcars, pulled by mules, in 1888.
By its centennial in 1901, Athens was a much-changed city. A new city hall was completed in 1904. An African-American middle class and professional class grew around the corner of Washington and Hull Streets, known as the "Hot Corner", where the Morton Building was constructed in 1910. The theater at the Morton Building hosted movies and performances by black musicians such as Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, and Duke Ellington. In 1907 aviation pioneer Ben T. Epps became Georgia's first pilot on a hill outside town that would become the Athens-Ben Epps Airport. Athens got its first tall building in 1908 with the seven-story Southern Mutual Insurance Company building.
During World War II, the U.S. Navy built new buildings and paved runways to serve as a training facility for naval pilots. In 1954, the U.S. Navy chose Athens as the site for the Navy Supply Corps school. The school was located in Normal Town in the buildings of the old Normal School. The school closed in 2011 under the Base Realignment and Closure process. The 56 acres (23 ha) site is now home to the GHSU/UGA Medical Partnership, the UGA College of Public Health, and other health-related programs
In 1961, Athens witnessed part of the civil rights movement when Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton Holmes became the first two black students to enter the University of Georgia. Despite the Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling in 1954, the Athens–Clarke County school district remained segregated until 1964.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the balance has a total area of 118.2 square miles (306.1 km2), of which 117.8 square miles (305.1 km2) is land and 0.5 square miles (1.3 km2) (0.41%) is water.
Athens lies within the humid subtropical climate zone, with hot, humid summers and mild to moderately cold winters. Annual rainfall averages 49.7 inches (1,260 mm). Light to moderate snowfall can occur in winter. In the spring, frequent thunderstorms can sometimes become severe, even producing tornadoes. The city itself sits on a series of anomalous hills, unique to the Piedmont region.
Athens has a humid subtropical climate. Its climatic regime is in many ways typical of Southeastern United States with long and hot summers transitioning into short and cool winters, but with precipitation being consistently high throughout the year.
|Climate data for Athens, Georgia (Ben Epps Airport), 1981–2010 normals|
|Record high °F (°C)||80
|Average high °F (°C)||53.9
|Average low °F (°C)||33.1
|Record low °F (°C)||−4
|Precipitation inches (mm)||4.05
|Snowfall inches (cm)||1.6
|Avg. precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in)||10.4||9.5||9.3||8.2||8.7||10.8||10.5||9.1||7.7||6.8||8.6||9.9||109.6|
|Avg. snowy days (≥ 0.1 in)||.8||.5||.2||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.3||1.8|
|Source: NOAA (extremes 1884–present)|
- Pulaski Heights
- Five Points
- East Side
- West Side
- Carr's Hill
|U.S. Decennial Census|
|Black or African American (non-Hispanic)||31,129||24.45%|
|Hispanic or Latino||14,244||11.19%|
As of the 2020 United States census, there were 127,315 people, 51,640 households, and 23,615 families residing in the city.
As of the census of 2010, there were 100,266 people, 39,239 households, and 19,344 families residing in the city. The population density was 851.5 people per square mile (328.8/km2). There were 41,633 housing units at an average density of 353.6 per square mile (136.5/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 64.71% White, 27.37% Black or African American, 0.21% Native American, 3.15% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 3.11% from other races, and 1.41% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 6.39% of the population.
The large population increase from 1990 to 2000 reflects the altered boundaries that came with the consolidation of Athens and Clarke County, not just the influx of new residents.
There were 39,239 households, out of which 22.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 32.3% were married couples living together, 13.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 50.7% were non-families. 29.9% of all households were made up of individuals, and 5.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.35 and the average family size was 2.95.
In the city, the population was spread out, with 17.8% under the age of 18, 31.6% from 18 to 24, 27.3% from 25 to 44, 15.3% from 45 to 64, and 8.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 25 years. For every 100 females, there were 95.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93.4 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $28,118, and the median income for a family was $41,407. Males had a median income of $30,359 versus $23,039 for females. The per capita income for the balance was $17,103. About 15.0% of families and 28.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 25.2% of those under age 18 and 13.5% of those age 65 or over.
Arts and culture
The Georgia Museum of Art has been since 1982 the official state art museum. Culture coexists with the university students in creating an art scene, music scene and intellectual environment. The city has music venues, restaurants, bars, and coffee shops that cater to its creative climate.
Points of interest
- One of the remaining two double barreled cannons produced during the American Civil War is located here.
- The "Tree That Owns Itself," which is now an offspring of the original tree
- The Georgia Museum of Art, the official state museum of art
- The State Botanical Garden of Georgia
- The University of Georgia Campus Arboretum
- St. Mary's Steeple, home of the First R.E.M. show and site for newly founded renovation.
- The Globe bar was voted by Esquire magazine as the third top bar in America in 2007.
- Founded in 1955, Allen's is Athens' oldest bar and grill despite closing in 2004, re-opening in 2007, and closing again in November, 2011.
- Network Translations, Inc. developed here. It produced the PIX firewall which was later purchased by Cisco Systems.
The Athens music scene grew in the early 1970s and later during the 1980s with the Georgia Theatre and 40 Watt Club as the bands R.E.M. and the B-52's scored breakout hits. Other notable bands were Widespread Panic, Dreams So Real, Indigo Girls, Vigilantes of Love, Matthew Sweet, The Method Actors, Love Tractor, Pylon, Flat Duo Jets, The Primates, Modern Skirts, The Whigs, and Corey Smith.
National acts that have come out of Athens include: The Whigs, Reptar, Danger Mouse, Dreams So Real, alternative duo Jucifer, Servotron, Vic Chesnutt, Drive-By Truckers, Elf Power, Neutral Milk Hotel, The Sunshine Fix, Colt Ford, Velocirapture, Brantley Gilbert, Corey Smith, Harvey Milk, The Olivia Tremor Control, of Montreal, Widespread Panic, Perpetual Groove, Five Eight, Dead Confederate, Thayer Sarrano, Jet by Day, Mothers, and Athens Boys Choir. R.E.M. members Michael Stipe, Mike Mills and Peter Buck still maintain residences in Athens.
Every summer since 1996 the city has hosted AthFest, a nonprofit music and arts festival in the downtown area.
Athens has three sister cities.
Athens is home to a growing number of young technology companies including Docebo, Roundsphere, and Cogent Education. The city is also home to more established technology companies such as Partner Software, Peachtree Medical Billing, and Digital Insight.
Athens is home to several pharmaceutical manufacturing and biotechnology companies such as Merial and Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. The University of Georgia also hosts its own biotechnology research centers mostly from the lower east side of town bordering Oconee county. In May 2020, RWDC Industries, a company that develops alternatives to single-use plastics, announced their plan to invest $260 million into the city and the surrounding area and acquire an existing 400,000 square-foot facility.
Independent publisher Hill Street Press is headquartered here. Authors with previous, or current, residence in the city include Pulitzer Prize winners Deborah Blum and Edward Larson, as well as Judith Ortiz Cofer, Reginald McKnight and Coleman Barks.
Athens' music industry has also continued to grow as Tweed Recording acquired an 11,000 square-foot facility in downtown Athens to house their new recording studio, academy and community space.
Each spring, there are bicycle races collectively known as the Twilight Series. One of these races is the Athens Twilight Criterium.
In 2010, the average household rent in Athens was $962. The national average was $1,087. Of the Athens population 25 years of age or older, 39.3% have earned a bachelor's degree or higher.
Clarke County School District
The Clarke County School District supports grades pre-school to grade twelve. The district consists of fourteen elementary schools, four middle schools, and three high schools (one non-traditional). The district has 791 full-time teachers and 11,457 students as of 2010[update].
- Athens Academy (grades K-12)
- Athens Christian School (grades K-12)
- Athens Montessori School (grades K-8)
- Downtown Academy (grades K-3)
- Saint Joseph Catholic School (grades K-8)
- Monsignor Donovan Catholic High School (grades 9–12)
- Double Helix STEAM School (grades 5-8)
- Al Huda Islamic Center of Athens Sunday School (5 years and older)
Colleges and universities
- The University of Georgia (UGA), the state's flagship public research university, is the oldest and 3rd largest institution of higher learning (behind Georgia State University and Kennesaw State University.) in Georgia. Founded in 1785, it was the first state-chartered university in the United States.
- Athens Technical College is a Technical College System of Georgia public college. It offers certificates, diplomas, and associate degrees in business, health, technical, and manufacturing-related fields.
- Augusta University (AU) through its Medical College of Georgia has a Medical Partnership with the University of Georgia housed at the University of Georgia Health Science Campus, and the AU College of Nursing has had a campus in Athens since 1974.
- Piedmont College, since 2021 Piedmont University, established a campus in Athens in 1995. Piedmont announced that it would be moving its campus from the Cobbham neighborhood to Normaltown in January 2021.
- Athens College of Ministry (ACMin) is a private Christian college that was established in 2012. ACMin currently offers certificates, undergraduate, and graduate degrees in eight various major areas.
The city is the focus of U.S. Highways U.S. Route 29 (US 29), US 78, US 129, US 441, and Georgia State Route 72 (SR 72), and near the eastern terminus of SR 316 and the southern terminus of SR 106. Other state routes in Athens are SR 8 and SR 15, which follow US 29 and US 441 respectively, SR 10 which follows US 78 east and west of Athens but deviates to US 78 Bus. to go through Athens, and SR 15 Alt. which starts at the SR 10 Loop interchange at Milledge Avenue and follows Milledge and Prince Avenues to US 129 which it follows to the north. The SR 10 Loop serves as a limited-access perimeter. The city is bisected east to west by Broad Street/Atlanta Highway (US 78 Bus. and SR 10) and north to south by Milledge Avenue (SR 15 Alt.). Lumpkin Street, Prince Avenue (SR 15 Alt.), North Avenue, and Oconee Street (US 78 Bus.) along with Broad Street are major thoroughfares radiating from downtown. College Station Road and Gaines School Road are major thoroughfares on the east side of Athens, along with US 78 east (Lexington Road). On the west side, most major thoroughfares intersect US 78 Bus. (Broad Street/Atlanta Highway), including Alps Road/Hawthorne Avenue, Epps Bridge Parkway, and Timothy Road/Mitchell Bridge Road.
Athens-Ben Epps Airport (FAA code AHN) has been operational since 1917. It is east of downtown outside Georgia State Route 10 Loop and north of US Route 78. AHN qualifies for air service to be provided under the Essential Air Service provisions. SeaPort Airlines provides commercial air service to Nashville International Airport, TN. Until 2012, Georgia Skies and Wings Air provided commercial air service to Atlanta, and until 2008 (prior to either airline's current AHN service), US Airways provided service to Charlotte. Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL) is the primary point of departure and arrival for Athenians due to the relative lack of air service to AHN.
Athens encourages use of alternative transportation. Bike lanes are provided on major thoroughfares. A rail-to-trail redevelopment is being considered to connect Downtown with the East Side. Organizations such as BikeAthens support and encourage biking. Skateboarding and small scooters are also common sights around UGA campus and Downtown.
Athens Transit provides intracity transit seven days per week. UGA Campus Transit provides fare-free transit around the University of Georgia campus, Milledge Avenue and Prince Avenue on the way to UGA's newest campus, the Health Sciences Campus. Southeastern Stages, a subsidiary of Greyhound Lines, provides intercity bus services. Low cost curbside bus service to Atlanta and Charlotte is also provided by Megabus.
Athens has no direct passenger rail service; the closest Amtrak stations are in Atlanta, Gainesville, and Toccoa. Until the 1950s and 1960s the Seaboard Air Line Railroad's daily Cotton Blossom (ended, 1955), Washington - Atlanta, Silver Comet, New York - Birmingham and Tidewater (ended, 1968), Norfolk - Birmingham service made stops at the SAL's Athens depot at College Avenue and Ware Street, north of downtown. Train service to Athens ended with the last run of the Silver Comet in 1969. Until the early 1950s, the Southern Railway ran a passenger service to Lula on the Southern's main line northeast of Gainesville. Into the same period, the Central Railroad of Georgia ran mixed passenger and freight trains south to Macon's Terminal Station.
Passenger service is proposed to return to Athens via a proposed route of the Charlotte to Atlanta segment of the Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor. The alignment with a proposed station stop in Athens was chosen as this segment's preferred alternative on September 30, 2020.
Freight service is provided by CSX and Athens Line, the latter having leased tracks from Norfolk Southern. The Georgia Department of Transportation has proposed the city as the terminus of a commuter line that links Atlanta and Gwinnett County along the Georgia 316 corridor.
Electric service in Athens-Clarke is provided by three customer-owned electric cooperatives, Walton EMC, Rayle EMC and Jackson EMC, as well as by Georgia Power, a subsidiary of Southern Company. Water utility is provided by the city. Garbage is provided by private companies according to customer purchase, though the city does offer municipal garbage pick up as a service. Natural gas is supplied by Atlanta Gas Light through various marketers within the deregulated market.
Athens is served by two major hospitals, the 359-bed Piedmont Athens Regional and the 170-bed St. Mary's Hospital. The city is also served by the smaller 42-bed Landmark Hospital of Athens. Piedmont Athens Regional was formerly Athens Regional Medical Center before being acquired by Piedmont Healthcare in 2016. In March 2018, Piedmont Healthcare announced a $171 million capital investment project for Piedmont Athens Regional which would include the addition of a fourth story to the Prince 2 building as well as the demolition of the 100 year old 1919 Tower in order to make space for a new, state of the art, seven story tower. The entire project is slated for a 2022 completion.
St. Mary's Hospital was founded in 1906 and became a Catholic hospital in 1938. The hospital became St. Mary's Health Care System in 1993. Today, St. Mary's is part of Trinity Health, one of the nation's largest non-profit Catholic healthcare systems and includes St. Mary's Hospital in Athens, 56-bed St. Mary's Sacred Heart Hospital in Lavonia, Ga., and 25-bed St. Mary's Good Samaritan Hospital in Greensboro, Ga.
- David Barbe – musician and producer/engineer
- Coleman Barks – poet, interpreter of the 13th-century Sufi poet Rumi
- Kevin Barnes – founding member of the band of Montreal
- Kim Basinger – film actress
- Bill Berry – founding member of R.E.M.
- John Berry – singer
- Fred Birchmore – adventurer and centenarian
- Byron Bowers – Stand Up Comedian
- Brian Bowles – martial artist
- Titus Burgess – actor and singer
- Phil Campbell – farmer and politician
- Henry Hull Carlton – member of the U.S. House of Representatives
- Eve Carson – 2004, slain Student Body President of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
- Vic Chesnutt – singer-songwriter
- Howell Cobb – Secretary of the Treasury
- Bob Cole – composer
- Jeff Daniels – actor, born in Athens
- Leila Denmark – pediatrician and supercentenarian
- Ben T. Epps – aviation pioneer
- Colt Ford – country musician
- Adam Frazier – MLB player
- Houston Gaines – politician, member of Georgia House of Representatives.
- Marianne Gordon – actress
- Henry W. Grady – journalist and orator; helped reintegrate the former Confederate States
- Willie Green – former NFL player
- Forrest Griffin – MMA fighter
- Elizabeth Guess – professional soccer player
- Young Harris – judge, philanthropist, and namesake of Young Harris College
- Al Hester – professor of journalism, historian
- Henry R. Jackson – Major General in the Georgia militia during the Civil War
- Wadsworth Jarrell – artist
- Andy Johnson – former NFL player
- Hall Johnson – American composer and arranger of spirituals
- John Kasay – Carolina Panthers kicker
- Brian Kemp – Governor of Georgia
- Todd Kimsey – actor (Seinfeld)
- Leo Kottke – acoustic guitarist
- NeNe Leakes – reality TV star and actress, raised in Athens
- Bill Mallonee – American singer-songwriter
- Jeff Mangum – indie folk musician (lived in Athens until the early 2000s)
- Eaddy Mays – television and film actress
- Brian McCann – MLB player, born in Athens
- Mary Jackson McCrorey, educator, mission worker
- Lou McGarity – jazz trombonist
- Zach Mettenberger – NFL quarterback
- Ron Meyers – potter/ceramics artist and teacher
- Fred Mills – classical music professor and Grammy nominee
- Mike Mills – founding member of R.E.M.
- Quentin Moses – football linebacker for the Miami Dolphins, born in Athens
- Phaedra Parks – Reality TV star and attorney
- Billy Payne – former chairman of Augusta National Golf Club
- Madeleine Peyroux – jazz singer, songwriter, and guitarist, born in Athens
- Edwin Pope – Miami sportswriter, born in Athens
- Leonard Postero – Radio personality, Leonard's Losers
- Dunta Robinson – NFL player
- Claire Merritt Hodgson Ruth – second wife of baseball great Babe Ruth
- Mildred Seydell – one of the first female newspaper journalists in Georgia
- Chuck Smith – former NFL defensive end
- Scott Spillane – musician, The Gerbils and Neutral Milk Hotel
- Lucy May Stanton – artist known for portrait miniatures
- Michael Stipe – founding member of R.E.M.
- Keith Strickland – musician, composer and founding member of The B-52s
- Fran Tarkenton – Hall of Fame quarterback
- Jason Thrasher – rock photographer
- Laura Slade Wiggins – actress and musician
- Cindy Wilson – founding member of The B-52s
- Ricky Wilson – founding member of The B-52s
|Mary the Jewess|