The City of Roswell, approximately 20 miles north of Atlanta on the banks of the Chattahoochee River, was established by Roswell King in the late 1830s. His intention was to open a mill and establish a new city similar to those in his native New England.
Roswell was first built along Vickery Creek, where several textile mills were constructed. The community was centered on the Presbyterian Church, with roads leading to the community’s important sites, such as the public square, many of the founders’ homes, and the mills. The town grew and thrived in the years leading up to the Civil War with the opening of several additional mills and the relocation of many wealthy citizens from more developed areas of coastal Georgia. By the 1860s, Roswell had become an important manufacturing center.
Roswell thrived after the Civil War, while remaining a small rural city. Its population remained steady at around 1,400 residents from 1900 to 1930 and, despite the beginnings of urban sprawl in the 1960s, the population remained under 10,000 until the construction of the limited access Georgia Highway 400 in the 1970s, which brought an economic boom to Roswell and the rest of North Fulton County. As of 2010, Roswell’s population is estimated to be around 87,000.
The rapid growth of Roswell in the 1970s, ‘80s, and ‘90s has left much of the City dominated by conventional suburban development patterns. Roswell prides itself on its new single-family neighborhoods and schools, but also celebrates its past and supports the preservation of its historic, cultural, and environmental resources. It is known for its historic churches and large historic estate homes. On most evenings, the restaurants and bars of Roswell’s quaint Canton Street district are thronged with patrons. There are several annual celebrations and tours that commemorate important citizens and events, including the marriage of Theodore Roosevelt, Sr. to Roswell’s Martha (Mittie) Bulloch.
Roswell’s important sites include Roswell Presbyterian Church (built in 1840), the Roswell Mill Ruins and remaining manufacturing structures, the Bricks, which housed Roswell Mill workers in some of the South’s first apartments (built around 1840), Barrington Hall (completed in 1842), Bulloch Hall (built in 1840), Mimosa Hall (1847), the public square, mill village and mill housing, and the Canton Street district.
Today, much of Roswell King’s vision for a thriving city has come to be. Renewed interest in Roswell’s core in the 2000’s has spawned several residential developments and brought population back to the city center. Building on this momentum, the City of Roswell commissioned concept and planning studies, including the Roswell Town Center/Atlanta Street Corridor LCI Study, that focus on the integration of land use and transportation to create a more walkable center. While the importance of the city’s history continues to hold a prominent place in the local imagination, popular sidewalk dining and new shops on streets shaded by mature trees are evidence of Roswell’s continued success as a model of true urbanism