Street names, when named after people, tend to lose meaning over time. Sugar Hill is full of these types of street names. For some, particularly those who are new to Sugar Hill, time has erased the knowledge of these individuals but not their legacies.
Wages Way is named after James Wages, Sugar Hill’s fourth mayor. He served from 1957 until 1961. R.H. Smith Boulevard is named after Sugar Hill’s third mayor, who served in the position just two years from 1955 until 1956. Sugar Hill’s tradition of naming streets after mayors doesn’t end (or begin) with Mayors Wages and Smith. Alton Tucker Boulevard, the main thoroughfare to downtown Sugar Hill off Peachtree Industrial Boulevard, is named after the city’s first mayor who began serving in 1939. Perhaps most prominent to passersby is the portion of Ga. Highway 20 named Nelson Brogdon Boulevard — honoring Sugar Hill’s second mayor. Each of these public servants had an impact on Sugar Hill. However, Mayor Brogdon stands above all others for his progressive thoughts and leadership — documented in a leatherbound scrapbook in the care of the Sugar Hill Historic Preservation Society.
Nelson Brogdon was born in 1915, nearly 24 years before Sugar Hill was chartered by the Georgia General Assembly. His ancestors were early settlers in this part of Gwinnett County, and his father owned a mercantile store in Buford and later Sugar Hill. Nelson was a foreman in the hand-stamping department of the Bona Allen Saddle Company, and he designed many of the hand-tooled saddles that made Bona Allen famous worldwide. He would keep these skills of working with leather throughout his entire life.
Nelson was elected mayor of Sugar Hill in 1948 and served until 1954. He was instrumental in starting both the water and natural gas systems that are in place in Sugar Hill and Buford. During his time as mayor, he documented the times and his thoughts in a leatherbound scrapbook.
His thoughts about Lake Lanier, the Chattahoochee River, and the future are just as relevant today as they were over 70 years ago:
“Sugar Hill is located approximately five miles from the Buford Dam. One street, Chattahoochee Avenue, leads directly to the site. When the Buford Dam is finished, many people will visit it as a resort. There will be boating, fishing, swimming, and other sports offered. Sugar Hill will then need tourist courts (hotels), grocery stores and department stores to care for the needs of the tourists. Land is available as ‘future homes’ for these establishments. Paved streets make traveling a pleasure, and courteous, pleasant ‘natives’ make visiting Sugar Hill a trip to remember.”
Mayor Brogdon also wrote about the establishment of Sugar Hill’s natural gas system;
“Construction of a natural gas system was completed on March 7, 1952, at a cost of $148,000. This system was financed through the sale of gas revenue anticipation certificates to Juran and Moody of St. Paul, Minnesota. Authorization by the people for the issuance of said certificates was voted in an election which unanimously carried by a vote of 176 affirmative and not a single vote negative. Bond buyers believed that this all-affirmative vote established a record. In Spring, residents outside the city limits petitioned officials of the town for an extension of the initial system. This was done at a cost of about $19,000, of which $2,300 was financed by petitioners. This extension covered a distance of 2.5 miles. From a total of 300 homes, 185 gas customers are tied on with others applying each week.”
Mayor Brogdon was a public servant who honored the past but also looked ahead for future generations. He knew the importance of history and recorded much of the progress that was made during his time as mayor of Sugar Hill. Just like today, the community was focused on issues like municipal development, public safety, community organizations, business development and growth, recreation, garbage disposal, housing, beautification and community cooperation. Sugar Hill is what it is today because of Mayor Brogdon’s forward-thinking leadership.
Brandon Hembree serves as mayor of Sugar Hill. He is a 20-year resident of the city, and he uses his interest in history to detail Sugar Hill’s rich past.