LaGrange Living: Historic Hillside brings unique spot to life

Published 10:48 am Friday, January 8, 2021

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Editor’s note: This story was featured in the December 2020 / January 2021 issue of LaGrange Living.

Located in the center of the Hillside community is a spot that has one of the most unique backdrops in all of LaGrange. 

Doc Spier’s Gathering Place was an old store on Jefferson Street in Hillside where Wilburn Thomas “Doc” Spier ran a grocery store and sandwich shop from 1932 to 1937 and then a sandwich shop from 1941 to 1953. On the side of the building is the original hand-painted Coca-Cola mural that has become an iconic picture destination in the area. 

“The ‘Pure as Sunlight’ mural was the Coca-Cola slogan back in 1927,” said DASH Interim Executive Director Nate Crawford. “The mural helps date everything. The original mural has been touched since, except to be touched up.” 

When D.A.S.H. (Dependable Affordable Sustainable Housing) developed the Hillside area, they left the walls of that store standing and made it an open air gathering place for the community, and sometimes there are community events held there. They named for Mr. Spier, because it had been a “gathering place” when he ran his business there. The entire property itself sits on approximately a third of an acre. 

“Initially, dashing invested money into the structure for the purpose of having a community gathering space,” Crawford said. “We did several repairs years ago to fix up some the walls on it. We’re looking at having to do some additional repairs again.” 

The hidden gem of the vintage Coca-Cola mural is easy to pass if you aren’t looking for it. For years, the mural has attracted locals and travelers for an iconic Instagram post. 

Now, DASH is hoping to bring more attention to the building by making it a venue space. 

According to Marketing and Community Outreach Manager Gina Snider, the space cost $150 to rent. 

“I think this spot is unique because it is in the heart of one of our Historic Mill Villages—the Hillside Neighborhood,” said Visit LaGrange CEO Kathy Tilley. “The fact that it has no roof is also a unique factor.”

Snider said they have been able to host concerts, neighborhood dinners, baby showers and more since opening it up as a rentable space. 

“We want people in Hillside,” Crawford said. “We just think it’s a great place to be. The Gathering Place is a great place to wait while you are waiting on food from Beacon or Cart Barn. You can take your kids over there and play. It’s a great place to take pictures, and it has a lot of LaGrange history for what it is.” 

The building itself is open-air with vintage string lights strung through. It is surrounded by greenery and even a few vines that grow Muscadines near the end of the summer that you can pick. 

The trees shadowing the building make it a perfect spot to even picnic during the summer. 

The Gathering Place is also one of Visit LaGrange’s top eight iconic places to take a photo.

“I think anything with a vintage Coca-Cola logo on it is ‘iconic,’” Tilley said. “The restored painting on the side of Doc Spier’s is a great location for a photo to help memorialize someone’s visit to our wonderful city.”

 It has also been featured on Explore Georgia’s website as an iconic place to visit. 

“It brings people to the neighborhood, which is one of our goals with revitalizing the area,” Snider said. “It’s almost like our very own secret garden.” 

Crawford said the building gives any event hosted there a unique theme. 

“How many places have four walls but no roof?” Crawford said. “It’s located in a cool location with some really cool history. It’s part of the story of LaGrange.” 

Snider said that it can fit any theme, whether rustic or elegant. Additionally, there is also ample parking across the street for any event. 

In the future, Snider said they hope to host a wedding or prom in the building, once all repairs are finalized. 

For the past few decades, the community and DASH have helped keep the building alive and preserve the history of what used to be the mill village community. 

“The mill community had everything for the community,” Crawford said. 

“You had your grocery store, you had your sandwich shop, you had your pharmacy. All these places were thriving at one point. With DASH, we are focused on neighborhood revitalization and keeping these things here. So, we were able to turn a grocery store into a venue.” 

The Gathering Place isn’t the first old structure that has been revitalized in the Hillside community. 

Crawford said that the Cart Barn was once an old gas station and now is a restaurant.  

“In other big cities, they all have their own big, iconic mural,” Snider said. 

“In Nashville, they have the angel wings mural and the Coke wall is our very own LaGrange version of that. It’s a big deal.” 

Both Crawford and Snider said they hope that more locals come to visit the iconic spot and spend time visiting the Historic Hillside Neighborhood.