By Spc. Uriah Walker, 3rd ID Public AffairsOctober 26, 2011
FORT STEWART, Ga. - Traveling off the beaten path can reveal some real gems for those who are willing to explore. At one time the downtown area of Hinesville was a bustling city center with its courthouse and local businesses being the center of town.
As the city grew, and businesses closed their doors, new establishments found it more cost-effective to build new rather than renovate the historic buildings. Vicki Davis, the executive director of the Hinesville Downtown Development Authority, and Katrina M. Sage, also of the HDDA, play an important role in the revitalization of the historic downtown area.
"With the courthouse and other businesses here, there are a large number of employees that work here," said Davis. "During their lunch they typically don't stay in the downtown area because there is a shortage of eateries here, they will drive out to where they have more variety in one location."
As has been the case since 1940 when Camp Stewart came to be, the command and Soldiers of Fort Stewart continue to play a vital role in the development of the local community. The 3rd Infantry Division Jazz Combo "Dogface Jazz" was on hand to show support for the city by playing upbeat jazz music during the "Lunchtime Concert in the Park" Friday at Hinesville's Bradwell Park.
Members of the community as well as Soldiers from Fort Stewart gathered to listen to "Dogface Jazz," enjoy a lunch catered by J.C.'s BBQ and explore what the historic downtown area has to offer. This was the last lunchtime concert but not the end of the efforts by the HDDA to raise awareness of the progress being made.
Charles Jelinek, a water technician at Winn Army Hospital and 17-year Resident of Hinesville, brought his son Christopher, an aviation technician with Banyan Air in Florida, to Bradwell Park specifically to listen to "Dogface Jazz."
"I remember when there was nothing in Hinesville," said Jelinek. "The Walmart was one of the old, small ones and you had to drive to Savannah to shop. Up until five years ago, there weren't even any chain restaurants here."
Through the renovation efforts of the city, several buildings have been restored and are now being used. There are now two restaurants, a coffee house and a sweets shop within one block of the courthouse.
The downtown area is conveniently located outside of Fort Stewart's Gate 1, but is easily overlooked since it is not situated on the main highway, said Davis. Most people only come into the area once per year to renew their vehicle registration.
Due to the weather, the concert series in the park will be scheduled in the future to coincide with the Thursday evening farmer's market, said Davis.