Solomon family honored at LaGrange birthday celebration

Published 9:00 am Saturday, December 16, 2023

The City of LaGrange commemorated its 195th birthday on Friday with a celebration in the downtown square to recognize the city’s incorporation anniversary.

The city was officially incorporated on Dec. 16, 1828. Former LaGrange Mayor Chris Joseph and other former and current city leaders were on hand to recognize the milestone. LaGrange Youth Council Historian and Miss Georgia Teen Charlie Key, along with the LaGrange High School Marching Band, were on hand to perform.

Joseph provided a brief history of LaGrange, noting the city was originally incorporated to become the county seat of Troup County in 1828.

“LaGrange was named after the estate of Marquis de Lafayette,” Joseph said. “Lafayette said the area in Troup County near where LaGrange would be located reminded him of his estate in France.”

“LaGrange was the center of trade for many years until the end of the Civil War,” Joseph said. “Into the 19th century, LaGrange developed a railroad center, industrial center, textile mills, and developed locally in increased economic importance. Gradually, the mills moved overseas and LaGrange had to reinvent itself. At the turn of the 20th century, LaGrange transitioned to a mixed economy with industrial, commercial and now tourism.”

Part of that commercial economy success was due to Solomon’s Department Store, noted Bill Hunnicutt, Executive Director of the Downtown LaGrange Development Authority.

“We are not only here to celebrate the birthday of our great city, but also to recognize and celebrate [the Solomon] family whose presence has impacted this community for over 100 years,” Hunnicutt said.

Ellis Solomon opened the doors to Solomon’s Department Store in 1932 after moving to the United States from Lebanon two decades earlier. From its humble beginnings selling dry goods, household wear, dress clothes, Ellis and son Charlie Sr. expanded the business to the four levels in downtown today, adding men’s and women’s and children’s sections.

Mayor Willie Edmondson said he remembers getting his first pair of shoes as a child at Solomon’s and thanked them for sticking with LaGrange.

“Not only that, but I remember when Belk’s moved out and when JC Penney moved out, and  Charlie Solomon said we’re not going anywhere. They stayed downtown and purchased other buildings downtown to make sure our city would not die,” Edmonson said.

“Though our society has changed and evolved throughout the years, Solomon’s remains a steadfast example of unwavering dedication to our community. A beacon of perseverance, and deep-rooted family values that we know and love,” Hunnicutt said, presenting an award in recognition of the family’s contributions to LaGrange to Cammie Solomon Long and Pattie Solomon.

Edmondson started the tradition of celebrating the city’s birthday with an event on the square. The city hopes to continue the event as an annual tradition.