The history of The Smith House goes back to 1884 when a gentleman by the name of Captain Frank Hall purchased an acre of land east of the Dahlonega town square to build a home. Captain Hall moved from Vermont to Dahlonega in 1868 after the civil war. He was a representative of The Boston Massachusetts Company to oversee local gold mills and machinery of the Dahlonega mines. His fortune came from many tracts of land he acquired and from general merchandise store named the Frank W. Hall Merchandise Company. The Hall Block where the store was located is still visible on the town square – with the Hall name shown on top. The house next to the Hall Block is known as the Hall House. There Frank and his first wife lived and hosted many out of town guests. After her passing, Frank remarried – to Ester C Hall and planned construction of a home on the plot of land he’d acquired east of the square. During construction, workers discovered a gold and quartz vein under the building. Mr. Hall contacted the city fathers requesting mining rights. They refused to issue rights due to concerns that the loud machinery would disrupt businesses on the square. Shortly after construction on the home was complete, Frank Hall died of typhoid fever.
In 1922, Henry and Bessie Smith purchased the Hall property and opened a boarding house for hungry quests and travelers. They converted the seven rooms to accommodate guests and Bessie began cooking delicious meals served on the long communal tables that are still famous today. Her buttermilk fried chicken, country ham and garden fresh vegetables became the signature recipes of “The Smith House”. Fame of her cooking quickly spread and people traveled to Dahlonega to experience the Smith’s hospitality. At that time the price of a room and meal was $1.50 a day.
In 1946, the Fry family purchased the property from the Smith’s. They engaged Fred and Thelma Welch to run the restaurant operations. Shortly afterwards they moved the dining operations to the basement of the original structure. They had heard of the many stories of the mystery of the mine shaft being under the building. But not knowing the exact location they served many meals on top the hidden mine shaft that was under the floor. The shaft had been previously boarded up by past owners and concrete poured over it. Thelma Welch began introducing new dishes to the menu along with the recipes handed down from previous owners. People traveled from all over country and the world to sample her food. Many would say they waited up to 3 hours on any given Sunday for a feast at her table. The Welch’s and son Freddy purchased The Smith House in 1970.
The mine shaft was discovered when Freddy and wife Shirley, the current owners were doing a major renovation project. During construction of the old dining room and a new addition workers found a large size round hole and shaft under a concrete slab they were removing. After removing debris from the shaft, they discovered discarded contents of the house from days past. Cleaning out the shaft down many feet – to their surprise they found the famous vein of gold was right there – in the side wall of the shaft.
Today, the history of the shaft and many of its contents are on display for our visitors to see. Smith House restaurant and hotel guests still travel from great distances to sit at the famous communal tables and sample dishes that were handed down through the generations.
To learn more about The Smith House and the famous mine shaft, The Legend of the Smith House Mine DVD can be purchased by clicking here.