More than three years after the building experienced “significant” fire damage, Red Top Mountain State Park unveiled its newly constructed Visitor Center Nov. 2.
“I am absolutely thrilled to see this project come together,” said Kelly Howington, Red Top’s park manager. “The Red Top Mountain State Park staff moved quickly after the fire to settle into cramped quarters until the project was completed.
“This facility provides a beautiful and functional setting for our administrative offices to operate as well as a wonderfully inviting entrance to the area that includes the 1800s Vaughan Log Cabin, Summey Casting Shed, blacksmith shop and four trailheads.”
Receiving the call at 3:24 p.m. June 19, 2016, five stations from the Bartow County Fire Department responded to the scene — 50 Lodge Road S.E. in Acworth — that already was marked by heavy fire and smoke.
“The Red Top Mountain State Park Lodge was officially closed in 2010, before I came to work for the state park system,” Howington said. “On Father's Day of 2016, a breezeway caught fire most likely from a trash can in that area. Efforts to extinguish the fire damaged the entire conference center side of the building.
“In the end, the department determined that it would be best to simply replace the entire facility rather than attempt to repair the significant damage from the fire. Construction on the new facility began in January of 2019 and while there are still some small punch list items we are addressing, we were able to begin letting visitors through the facility on the weekend of Nov. 2.”
Echoing Howington’s comments, Kim Hatcher also underscored the importance of the Red Top Mountain State Park Visitor Center.
“We are thrilled with the new visitor center and are looking forward to being able to host more events now near the Vaughan Cabin,” said Hatcher, public affairs coordinator for Georgia’s State Parks and Historic Sites. “I think park guests will really appreciate the look and feel because it fits into the park's history so well. And I'm proud of how well the park's staff was able to continue welcoming visitors, checking them in and offering programs while it was under construction.”
Consisting of about 6,000 square feet, the Visitor Center is a key centerpiece for Red Top’s programming.
“The new facility consists of an administrative wing, conference/interpretive room, retail/cottage check in space, picnic shelter and a small seating area for our interpretive staff to conduct programs as needed,” Howington said. “The new parking spaces, traffic flow and sidewalks make an accessible and inviting entrance to the beautiful ‘backyard’ space that includes the existing outdoor classroom, log cabin, casting shed, blacksmith shop and lakeside trail.
“We have recently brought back our iron pour program with an all new iron furnace and are working to bring back a bluegrass music offering hopefully in the summer of 2020. … The new building also includes an exterior facing set of bathrooms, which will remain open each day until dark. This provides our hikers and guests, who are near the Visitor Center, nice clean modern facilities even if the main part of the Visitor Center is closed for business for the day.”