Our History

In September 2000, the City of Duluth opened its doors to the first Duluth History Museum located at 3582 West Lawrenceville Street. The Museum and Historical Society moved to the Strickland House at 2956 Buford Highway in April 2009. It's present location is now in the Depot located at the Southeastern Railway Museum on Buford Highway. Normal hours of Operation are Jan-Feb: Thursday thru Saturday, Mar-May: Wednesday thru Saturday, June-Jul: Tues-Saturday and Aug-Dec: Wed-Saturday. All days are from 10am to 5pm. To make an appointment or to schedule a tour (individual or group), contact any of their Board Members or Candace Morgan at 770.403.1795.

For a community profile on Duluth, click here. Provided by CityTownInfo.com

For more information about Duluth’s history or to volunteer with the Duluth Historical Society, send an e-mail to info@duluthhistoricalsociety.org

History of Duluth

The origin of the name of the city was named after Daniel Greysolon Du Luth (1636-1710), who was a French captain and explorer. He was born in Saint Germain Laval (Loire – France), a small village about fifty miles from Lyons. He negotiated and signed peace between Saulters and Sioux nations in the area of the city of Duluth, Minnesota on September 15,1679. The city was called Duluth in his memory. He died in Montréal in 1710.

In the early 1800′s, there were no known white settlers in the area now known as Duluth, GA. This was then a part of the Cherokee Indian territory. In 1818 Gwinnett County was created by an act of the General Assembly of Georgia and the area was opened to settlers.

At the time that Evan Howell came to the area, there was only one road opened in the section. This was the Peachtree Road, an offshoot of an old Indian trail that ran along the bridge south of the Chattahoochee River. It had been surveyed and constructed during the War of 1812 and connected Ft. Daniel with the fort at Standing Peachtree, 30 miles downriver. Peachtree Road is still the most famous road in Georgia.

He realized that more roads were needed in order for the area to develop, so he obtained permission in February 1833 to construct a road from the Chattahoochee River across his land to intersect Peachtree Road. This intersection became known as Howell’s Cross Roads and was known by this name for 40 years.

Duluth has been an important crossroads to the area since the Cherokee Indians first settled here. In 1821, Evan Howell, Duluth’s forefather, developed the town of Howell Crossing which later evolved into a major artery for the railroad. With the visionary acumen of his grandson, Evan P. Howell, changes were on the horizon in 1873. The opportunity to build and link a railway system from North to South was about to unfold. Representative J. Proctor Knott delivered a speech to the United States House of Representatives entitled, “The Glory of Duluth.” The pitch of his presentation weighed heavily with Congress and consequently a bill to finance the building of the railroad from Howell Crossing to Duluth, Minnesota was enacted. Grateful for the opportunity to build on a vision, Howell deemed it appropriate to rename the city to Duluth.

Howell ran his own plantation and cotton gin by ferry and became the town’s first merchant. There are no descendants with the Howell name currently in Duluth, however, he was the great-grandfather of the late Jack and Calvin Parsons and other descendants became publishers of the Atlanta Constitution.

During this time, the Stricklands, Knoxes, Summerours, Joneses, Paynes, Findleys, Pittards, Littles, Herringtons, Corleys and others also moved into the area.

Important dates in the history of the City.

  • 1821 - The Cherokee Indian Territory was settled by Evan Howell, the first successful farmer and merchant of Duluth. He moved here from Cabarrus County, North Carolina and settled near the Chattahoochee River on the northern boundary of the new County. He built his home and began working to bring his people into this part of the county.
  • 1871 - The railroad came to Duluth which boosted the economy. With it came new prosperity and growth. The Methodist church formed in Duluth.
  • 1873 - The town name was changed to Duluth following completion of the railroad. Duluth was named as a joke after Duluth, Minnesota when Congressman J. Proctor Knott of Kentucky made fun of the name. Today there is a Proctor Square and a Knott Street.
  • 1876 - The official Charter of Duluth was approved by the Georgia General Assembly.
  • 1886 - The Baptist church formed in Duluth.
  • 1870 - Around this time, the first public school was built in Duluth. The first brick school was built in 1907 then destroyed by fire in 1935.
  • 1880 - First Mayor elected in Duluth, John Knox, Served until 1885.
  • 1904 - First bank built in Duluth, The Bank of Duluth.
  • 1906 - The title was officially incorporated as the City of Duluth.
  • 1922 - Georgia’s First Female Mayor Elected, Alice Harrell Strickland, Mayor of Duluth.
  • 1943 - First Hospital built in Duluth, Joan Glancy Hospital.
“Pride In Old And New”

The new seal of the City of Duluth, Georgia, was created in the year 2003. The appearance is similar to the old seal previously used by the City from 1982 until 2003. The background information was selected to represent and maintain the history of Duluth as well as representing a new development.

The steam engine is prominent because the city’s growth was dependent on the railroad and the city’s name was established in conjunction with the railroad.

The flags represent and honor those veterans who served in the different branches of the military. The flags are displayed throughout the city twice annually, on Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

The Cupola that sits above the City’s new Festival Center building and amphitheater located in the historic downtown represents the City’s commitment to “Pride in the Old and New” by maintaining the historic integrity found in the downtown. A plan for restoring the downtown and preserving its older buildings was approved in 1998 and implementation of the plan began in 2000. The bell in the cupola was donated by Ms. Kathryn Willis and the major cost of the building was paid for by the Fall Festival Committee through money raised from an annual Fall Festival held in the downtown in September of each year.

Duluth was named Tree City in 1989 and is known for its dedication to preserving green space. Trees appear in the seal as a symbol of Duluth’s Tree City designation.

Located on the bottom right and the left outer ring of the shield are tufts of cotton. Cotton was a major industry in the Duluth area. There were at least three operating cotton gins in the city and the streets were, at one time, lined with cotton bales awaiting shipment by the railroad.

The date 1876 represents when Duluth was first Chartered.
The First Baptist Church 1948-1980 became City hall in 1982.

City With A Vision

Duluth is recognized as a model city for Gwinnett County. It is poised with a perfect blend of small businesses, entrepreneurial enterprise, major corporations and visionary developers. Its success rate has been obtainable through sound economic efforts, business advocacy and leadership development. The vitality of Duluth is no accident. It is the result of careful planning and great foresight on the part of its business and community leaders. From tangible communication programs to local events that influence and impact the business environment, Duluth embraces a unique, concentrated form of government.

As the second largest city in Gwinnett County, Duluth is noted first in financial stability throughout the State of Georgia. As a result, there are no bond ratings and the City basks debt free. This, in addition to Duluth’s favorable growth pattern, has earned it the reputation of a suburban oasis, making it a very desirable address, particularly at the start of a new millennium.

Duluth remains a busy hub today, continuing in the vanguard of the Metro area’s great business and residential expansion. Despite phenomenal growth, it has retained its small-town character, where personal camaraderie, spirited by annual holiday and festive events, is savored. Duluth is home to more than 26,688 residents who live, work and play in its 9.8 square-mile community. Its commercial corridor is among Gwinnett County’s busiest. Over 1,750 businesses are located within the City limits.

Did you know…

  • Duluth is 9.8 square miles in size and is located 25 miles northeast of Atlanta. Transportation is accessible by Interstate 85, Buford Highway, Peachtree Industrial Boulevard, Georgia Highway 120 and Pleasant Hill Road.
  • The corporate sector of Duluth welcomes over 1,750 businesses to the city, and by all indications, this number is likely to continue in growth.
  • Duluth is the first city in Georgia to implement multi-material curbside recycling. This program is free to all residents and was recently upgraded to include cardboard recycling and special waste, such as oil and paint.
  • The tourist attraction is strong in Duluth. The Southeastern Railway Museum preserves, restores and operates historic railway equipment. The Duluth Fall Festival, held the last weekend in September, offers more than 250 arts and crafts and food booths, and draws crowds greater than 80,000.
  • Duluth elected the first woman mayor in Georgia, Alice H. Strickland. She lived 1861-1947. She promised to “Clean up Duluth and rid it of demon rum.” Her contributions to the community included opening up her home for kids to have their tonsils removed (there were no hospitals at this time). She also lead the movement to protect forest lands and donated an acre of land for a  community forest, the first in the area. Her home has been designated as a historic location by the Georgia Historical Society.
  • The Methodist church was the first church to form in Duluth in 1871. The church was formed when a small group of citizens began meeting at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Singleton S. Howell. The first building was constructed in 1873.
  • The Baptist church was organized in February 1886 and the first building built the same year. In 1907, a second building was built and was destroyed by fire in July 1947. The building was rebuilt in 1948 of brick, rock, and Stone Mountain granite.
  • Duluth is the fourth oldest chartered City in Gwinnett County. Lawrenceville being the oldest following by Norcross and Buford.
  • The first school was built in 1870′s where the current Monarch School stands. It was a two-room building that was destroyed by fire in 1925. A new building was completed the following year and was later replaced with the current Monarch school building. Duluth High School was built in 1958, B.B. Harris Elementary in 1966, and more came later.
  • The Bank of Duluth was the first bank to organize and open in 1904. It was located in the building currently occupied by Economy Pharmacy in Downtown Duluth. The Farmers and Merchants Bank opened in 1911. Both closed during the Depression. The Bank of Duluth was re-organized in 1945 in the original building.
  • Gwinnett’s first hospital was built in 1943 in Duluth – Joan Glancy Hospital. Glancy Jones Dunn was the first baby born at Joan Glancy Hospital. The hospital was funded by General A.R. Glancy after the death of Olin Burnett, 6, in 1941. his daughter, a Duluth cow farmer, and employer of the boy’s father wrote to him about a small clinic to serve the people of Duluth’s medical needs. He sent $500 to get things started and sent $250 every year after. The hospital was named after the General’s daughter, Joan, who died of pneumonia.

The seal of the City of Duluth 1982 – 2003.

The City seal proudly heralds the symbolic traits of our sister city, Duluth, Minnesota

A closer view of the seal reveals a steam engine, the American eagle, a cotton field and bale of hay, in addition to the entrance of a grand residential community, Sweetbottom Plantation, along with the banks of the Chattahoochee River. Each of these items personifies Duluth’s commitment to a safe and beautiful community.