History of Helen
In January 1969, three Helen businessmen were meeting at a local restaurant. They were wondering if there wasn't some way to spruce up the old main street and encourage the tourists to stop on their way north into the mountains. One suggested he would speak with an artist that he knew from church in Clarkesville. That artist was John Kollock, whose family had deep roots in the area. John agreed to take some photos and draw up some sketches. He was inspired by seeing the town nestled in a small mountain valley and recalled his time in service in Germany and his visits to Bavarian towns in similar mountain valleys. The resulting sketches were well received by the citizens and the merchants.
By the fall of 1969, Helen had reinvented itself and many of the old buildings had new facades. The fall leaf season brought new visitors and later new merchants as well. Over the last 40 years the town has grown dramatically adding new ventures, shops, and venues with varying amounts of success. The story of Helen's reinvention is one of local entrepreneurship and civic cooperation that changed a dying lumber town into Georgia's third most visited city.