Tuesday August 9th, 2022 7:21AM

Copy of historic Longstreet portrait now in Gainesville

By Jerry Gunn Reporter
GAINESVILLE - The portrait of a famous American Civil War general who became a Gainesville citizen now looks back at visitors at the site of the hotel he once owned and operated.

It was featured at the 1939 New York World's Fair, this six and a half foot tall portrait of Confederate General James Longstreet. Later it was displayed at Gettysburg, and now the general's image is here in Gainesville at the Piedmont Hotel on Maple Street.

"It is a photocopy of the original," said Joe Whitaker, treasurer of the Longstreet Society, which operates a restored section of the hotel. Whitaker said the original is also in Georgia.

"It's at Chickamauga, the original is at the visitors center at Chickamauga," he said.

Whitaker added the photocopy stayed at Gettysburg for more than 50 years before the National Park Service loaned it to the society for display at the Piedmont.
The Longstreet Society hopes to hang on to the portrait of their namesake even if it is a copy.

"It's on loan from the National Park Service for a five-year period but they said they would be glad to extend it," Whitaker said.

Longstreet played a prominent role at Both Gettysburg and Chickamauga, the two major battles in that pivotal year of 1863; one, a northern victory, the other, a major win for the South.

At Gettysburg Longstreet was the reluctant Confederate second in command who did not want to send troops against a strong federal defensive position; at Chickamauga his corps poured through a gap in the Union line and swept the blue coat army from the field.

So it's no small wonder the tall painting of the general in gray, commissioned by his adoring second wife, Helen Dortch Longstreet, was displayed at both battlefields.

The story that unfolds at the restored remainder of the Piedmont Hotel is the story of James Longstreet the businessman, the entrepreneur, as well as the warrior, who started the poultry industry in Gainesville, according to Whitaker.

"The general served so much chicken and chicken dishes, that's what they served in the kitchen; he had several farmers who were growing chickens," Whitaker said. "People learned it was a good place to grow chickens and it later developed into the poultry industry here. We have tried to do all we can and renovate and improve on it for different functions that we plan to have here."

Whitaker said the Gainesville Hall County Preservation Trust bought the Piedmont Hotel site and paid contractors to finish the renovation work; the Longstreet Society, a volunteer group, is the operating arm for the hotel.

Whitaker hopes soon the Piedmont will be open to the public on Saturdays.
"It's going to depend on the number of volunteers who will come and do the work," Whitaker said. "We're hoping very shortly to have it open on Saturdays."

The Piedmont Hotel is located at 827 Maple Street and visitors may find it by heading south on Main Street, and then make a right turn on Martin Luther King Boulevard, and then another right onto Maple Street, where the hotel becomes visible.

Whitaker invites anyone with a group of visitors from out of town who wish to visit the Piedmont to call him at 770-536-1820.
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