Originally started by John Martin, who moved to the North Georgia Mountains in search of gold, his name is associated with a number of business ventures in the area. He acquired a vast amount of land throughout the Nachoochee Valley and along the Chattahoochee River. In addition to the mill, Martin ran the Hamby Mining Ditch and Martin Mine. Martin's Mill, as Nora Mill was known at the time, actually pre-dates the town of Helen by some 30 years and their is evidence that a mill pre-dating the current one existed as early as the 1820's.
Martin and Captain John Nichols (who named Anna Ruby Falls) were both major land owners in the area. When they died Lamartine G. Hardman began to purchase their holdings, including Nora Mill. Hardman, who is most noted for defeating Richard B. Russell, Sr. to become governor of Georgia between 1927 and 1931, owned the mill and continued to operate it as an income producing business. He renamed the business to Nora Mill in honor of a family member.
With the completion of the railroad to Robertstown a saw mill was built north of Nora Mill and in 1914 the town of Helen was founded. Helen was a popular destination, with a well-known hotel, the Mountain Ranch (it was known under a variety of names).
Although the saw mill eventually closed and the Mountain Ranch burned, Helen's rural setting attracted the producers of I'll Climb The Highest Mountain, the film adaptation of the Corra Harris novel about a circuit-riding preacher in the northeastern Georgia Mountains. Nora Mill is prominently featured in the movie, and studio photographs of primary actors William Lundigan, Susan Haywood, and Rory Calhoun pictures in front of the mill were used as promotional material throughout the state of Georgia.
In the 1980's Nora Mill was leased to Ron Fain, whose family still operates it. As with any 100+ year old building it is constantly being worked on, either to improve or repair. The mill itself, which is upstairs and not open to the public, was recently completely refurbished.
Visiting Nora Mill
If you are going to Helen (or anywhere north of Helen), a stop at Nora Mill should be on your itinerary. Inside the mill on the bottom floor is a unique shop that features many of the products that are hand-milled here. The store, which maintains its "old-timey" look with antiques including a turn-of-the-century stove, is uniquely beautiful.
Behind the store, and running along the Chattahoochee River, is a covered breezeway along with a deck that allows a close-up view of the dam and raceway. Beneath the dam, which is the first dam across the Chattahoochee, is some excellent rainbow trout fishing.
Nora Mill is open every day except Christmas.
Location: State Road 75, south of Helen
Directions: From Atlanta: Take I-85 north to exit 113 (I-985/GA 365). Note: exit is on the left and becomes I-985. Continue for 21.2 miles to exit 22 (US 129 known locally as Sycamore St.) Turn left and follow the sign for U. S. 129. Over the next 4.2 miles the road turns right on Martin Luther King Jr Blvd. and right on Park Hill Dr. As it leaves Gainesville Park Hill is simply U. S. 129. Continue on U.S. 129 north for 20.4 miles. Just past the city of Cleveland, GA 75 (known as Unicoi St.) comes off to the right. Nora Mill is 7.6 miles down this road, on the right hand side shortly after the Nacoochee Indian Mound.
Nora Mill Granary
Nora Mill Granary
7107 S. Main Street
Helen, GA 30545
Date added: February 19, 2004
Last update: February 28, 2004
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