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If a Georgian is thinking about Dahlonega he could be thinking about one of two things - gold (Dahlonega was the center of the North Georgia gold rush) or food (The Smith House has been serving since the 1920's). The Gold Rush is celebrated with the Dahlonega Gold Museum, just a few feet from the restaurant. Food, of course, is celebrated at the Smith House, an all you can eat family-style restaurant just a block from downtown Dahlonega.

Smith House History

Entrance to the Gold Mine
Inside The Smith House
The Smith House belonged originally to Captain Frank Hall, a Dahlonega businessman and entrepreneur who built both Hall's Block and the Victorian Mansardic Style "Hall's House" on the northwest west side of the square. In 1895 Hall began building a new home, storage area and office (for assaying gold, of course). According to legend, Hall struck gold - literally - as he was building the home, a fact excitedly told to readers of the Dahlonega Nugget on November 3, 1899:

Capt. Hall's workmen while excavating the cellar for his new ware house on the corner of Chestatee and Water streets ... struck a rich gold bearing vein several feet wide, depth not known.

City fathers didn't like Captain Hall's idea of mining a vein of gold right in the middle of town, so they would not give him the permit he requested. Hall closed down the mine and covered over the shaft with a few feet of concrete and the story of Hall's mine became one shrouded in speculation. Frank Hall moved to Atlanta, no longer desirous of the country life, and never lived in the mansion he built, although others did until about 1910. After being empty for 10-12 years, Henry (H. B. to some) and Bessie Smith purchased the home in 1922, modified the living quarters into rooms for rent and the basement storage area into a dining area.

Bessie started serving guests in her dining area, but word about her great food quickly spread to locals and beyond. People actually started coming from Atlanta, and that was almost a day trip on the country roads of the 1920's. Of course, even back then, it was her fried chicken that brought the most praise. Their son Vernon remembered:

Even then there were lots of tourists coming up to enjoy the mountains, and many of them would stay several weeks at a time or even all summer. The Smith House became popular almost immediately, thanks to the bountiful table of food cooked and served home-style by my mother with the assistance of Mary Strickland and Virstee Howell. The cost of a meal in those days was 35 cents.

After the Smith's sold the home in 1946 to Bill Fry, a local businessman and mining enthusiast, he hired Fred Welch to manage the restaurant. Fry would take young Freddy Welch around the area to show him the local mines. In 1970 Welch purchased the property from Fry and his son, Freddy, still runs the business.

In 2006 Freddy Welch decided to renovate the dining area. Of course, rumors of the gold mine that Captain Hall found in 1899 circulated around the town, and other rumors of a shaft running beneath the gold museum also surfaced. While preparing a concrete floor a worker unexpectedly punched a hole into a shaft on February 12, 2006. Work stopped as they got Freddy Welch to the site.

Welch knew immediately this was a vertical mining shaft. He had the workers carefully remove the concrete, not letting any more fall into the opening. With the oppening to the shaft clear Welch dropped a line with a video camera and light into the shaft and determined that after a vertical fall of twenty feet the shaft ended at a spot where two horizontal mine shafts came off - one in the direction of the Gold Museum. Local historian Anne Amerson called it a "truly remarkable find."

One mystery had been solved and another may be in the future, as Freddy and others ponder about what to do about the situation. Today the mine shaft opening is the centerpiece of an exciting exhibit that digs deep into the history of Dahlonega at the Smith House.


Most Georgia family-style restaurants are known for their fried chicken, and in Georgia parlance the Smith House fried chicken is "to die for." Crisp batter-coated chicken is fried in hot oil and is served hot. The crispy outside leads to the moist, delectable chicken that melts in your mouth. When the food is brought to the table, the chicken bowl will have a couple of breasts, one or two legs and a selection of other meats.

Fried chicken not your thing? Don't worry. The Smith House serves what they call "Sweet Baked Ham," essentially a mildly salty ham with a sweet glaze on the outside. Expect to be served some Georgian roast beef, essentially a piece of chuck roast cooked with veggies (carrots and onions, mostly). It is tender and flavorful. On special days the Smith House substitutes turkey for the roast beef.

Veggies are also served by the bowl, and our favorite is traditional Georgia breaded okra, sometimes called fried okra. The crunchy outside gives way to the moist, tender inside of this locally grown vegetable. Yams, cream style corn, creamed (whipped) russet potatoes, country style green beans, black eyed peas, and a traditional southern favorite, collard greens, round out the rest of the menu. Cole slaw is served with a vinegar-based dressing, so if you only like the sweet-mayo kind, you're out of luck. You also get a basket of "southern bread," which normally are cornbread and yeast rolls. Dessert is suppose to vary, but (maybe due to my own bad luck) it always seems to be a loose interpretation of strawberry short cake.

More Info

The Smith House
Visit The Smith House web site:http://www.smithhouse.com/
84 South Chestatee Street
Dahlonega, GA 30533

County: Lumpkin County

The Smith House


Take Georgia 400 North to State Road 60. Turn left and travel 5.5 miles. The Smith House is on the left

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