About 50 officials, business leaders and residents turned out for a brief celebration at noon, officially opening a new park on the piece of land left vacant after a fire destroyed the landmark Canton Drug Company building.
Formerly known by many as the “fire hole,” the small patch of land, on the corner of East Main and Church streets, has been named Fincher-Adkins Park, after the owners of the property, retired Canton businessman John Fincher and Atlanta attorney John Adkins.
Mayor Gene Hobgood was among the speakers to punctuate the live music and feast of hamburgers and hotdogs for the crowd Wednesday.
“What a difference,” Hobgood said as he looked out over the changed piece of land, which has been turned into a small, grass amphitheater. “It really, really looks good. I’m sure it’s going to be used extensively.”
Before recently, when Canton’s Main Street program started working on the lot, it had been little more than a weed-filled hole since the Canton Drug Company building and another holding Taylor’s Jewelry were torn down in the wake of the Dec. 26, 2009, fire. It was surrounded by a chain-link fence, on which flyers and political signs and banners were often posted. Many called it an eye sore.
Lewis Cline, chairman for the Cherokee Chamber of Commerce, told the crowd he was pleased with the new look.
“This park has certainly already improved my quality of life,” said Cline, who works as senior vice president of Bank of North Georgia down the street. “For four and a half years I’ve looked at a chain-link fence.
Congratulations. It’s going to be a wonderful addition to downtown Canton.”
After work by the city, the fence was taken down and the hole filled in by dirt and covered with sod on tiered steps of earth. The amphitheater is planned to facilitate live music and perhaps movies projected onto the walls of one of the buildings adjacent to the lot.
Fincher said after the ceremony he had no immediate plans to sell the property, though he likely will one day. The Main Street program is renting the lot from Fincher and Adkins for a total of $700 a month.
“We’re letting the property rise in value, and the city’s welcome to use it,” Fincher said. “Better for them, better for me, better for everybody.”
Pat Gold, president of the Main Street board, said it was “important to mention that this park, the amphitheater” were Councilman Bill Grant’s vision, when he was the president of Main Street board. Gold also noted Canton Tourism helped fund the construction on the park.
Audio Intersection owner Michael Buckner was also credited with his work on the getting the park up and running. Fincher said Buckner was the first to contact him about finding a use for the land.
Before the fire, Fincher ran an art gallery in the Canton Drug Company building, a turn-of-the-century landmark of the downtown community.
The drug store was once a “social hub” for downtown and also served as the bus station in the early half of the 20th century, according to the Cherokee County Historical Society. The second floor of the building also housed a local telephone call service center, back when long-distance and local service required separate operations.
During the ceremony Wednesday, Main Street Director Meghan Griffin encouraged the crowd to use the new park well, in ways that could make the spot somewhat like a social hub again.
“Come, enjoy it, hang out here, bring your lunch,” Griffin said. “We made it for you; it’s a park for you.”