James.qxp Nov Dec 2018 web - Page 11



T
wenty years ago virtually no one thought Sandy
Springs could ever be a city. A lobbying campaign led by a persistent citizen activist named
Eva Galambos was already pushing for incorporation, but
it would take a political earthquake— a Republican in the
governor’s mansion and the GOP taking control of both
chambers of the General Assembly— for Georgia’s eighth
largest city to be officially born in 2005.
Sandy Springs has perhaps been inhabited for hundreds or thousands of years, as those springs from
whence the name comes served as a watering hole for
the Cherokee and Creek tribes. American settlers
moved into the area in the mid-1800s. In fact, the oldest
house in Sandy Springs— the Austin-Johnson House—
was built in 1842 on Johnson Ferry Road. The Johnson
Ferry was one of the major linkages with the Atlanta
area to north Georgia and then on to Chattanooga. If
you were leaving Atlanta headed northwest and you
weren’t taking the Western & Atlantic Railroad,
chances are you took the Johnson Ferry.
In 1851, Wilson Spruill donated five acres of land for
the founding of the Sandy Springs United Methodist
Church. Those original “sandy” springs that provided an
oasis for the weary can still be found at Heritage Green, a
beautiful small park located not far from today’s city hall.
The area remained largely rural until the mid-1950s when
the post-war suburb boom saw families leaving Atlanta
and looking for more space. Then came the openings of I285 and GA 400 in the 1960s, which triggered a tremendous increase in housing in the area— and efforts to
incorporate started not long thereafter.
Atlanta had tried to annex the area a number of times,
but residents fought it off. The Committee for Sandy
Springs was formed in the 1970s, but the area remained
unincorporated, relying on what the citizens felt was unresponsive county government. Galambos argued that the
area needed a government closer to the people and more
responsive. Not only were there fights with the county
over services such as police and fire, but re-zoning also
caused problems. The county had approved several developments that residents had not wanted.
After several decades of campaigning, though, “liberation” from Fulton County became a reality. When the
legislature approved a referendum for cityhood in 2005,
94 percent of the residents voted “yes!”
continued on page 12
THE NEW 14-ACRE SANDY SPRINGS MIXED-USE CIVIC CENTER.
N OV E M B E R / D E C E M B E R 2 0 1 8
11

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