By Melody Harclerode
When sociologists describe a site as having a strong sense of place, they refer to a distinctive location provoking a deep, emotional attachment for visitors. Tangible elements, like a unique landscape and structure, combine with intangible elements, such as memories and history, to create a captivating site.
The bond may begin through visits to the location as a child or with poems, songs, and movies later in life. Some of most renowned sites in the United States with a strong sense of place include the Grand Canyon in the state of Arizona, Central Park in New York City, and the United States Capitol Building in Washington, D. C.
One of the captivating sites in metropolitan Atlanta lies in the peaceful rolling hills of the Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area. The Vaughters’ Farm entices visitors to stroll around a white, rustic barn as they take a break from the nearby hike/bike PATH trail in the midst of a meadow graced with beautiful, mature trees. Participants in the real-world treasure activity called geocaching search for hidden treasure on this scenic, 141-acre property using their cellphones. The poignancy of the old Vaughters’ Barn and its poetic landscape lures amateur and professional photographers to take photos. Behind the concrete and metal exterior walls, this barn offers an equally compelling history.
In the 1940’s and 1950’s, DeKalb County held the title as the leading producer in the Southeast United States of dairy products with dozens of dairy farms blanketing the district. Local teacher S. B. Vaughters purchased the land in 1946 to pursue his dream of owning a dairy farM. By 1947, he built a handsome, granite-faced home and the iconic barn. Vaughters’ commitment to produce quality milk helped him to operate the last remaining dairy farm in the county until the 1980’s. Due to efforts of the Arabia Mountain Heritage Area Alliance, he sold the property in 2002 to the State of Georgia as part of the Panola Mountain State Park, thereby preserving this last remaining dairy landscape in DeKalb County.
The Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area features more than twenty significant historical, natural, and cultural sites, including the Vaughters’ Farm, multiple ruins of quarry operations, and Arabia Mountain. Over one hundred thousand visitors each year make a strong emotional connection to the sites of this 40,000-acre region running in DeKalb, Henry, and Rockdale counties. This year as enthusiasts celebrate the tenth anniversary of the federal designation for the Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area, take a pleasant drive to the Vaughters’ Farm and other National Heritage Area sites to experience this strong sense of place as well.