In a wonderful book by James and Deborah Fallows, “Our Town,” the authors say that young Americans are increasingly moving back to small towns looking for a simpler life.

It’s a lifestyle that revolves around a city center, walking to shops, bars and restaurants and where keeping in shape involves just walking out of the house and onto trails and sidewalks. As younger generations are seeking to slow down and feel connected to community again, it’s possible that many small towns will see a resurgence in population.

As Rome continues to grow, we are seeing more buyers wanting to live closer to our downtown and, without much inventory, realtors are circling the perimeter of Broad Street and Between the Rivers searching for potential homes for buyers. And there happens to be a few small neighborhoods left near downtown that are waiting to be rediscovered.

These once larger and thriving neighborhoods were linked together by adjoining lawns and wide front porches. They are now fractured by detrimental rezoning, wider roads, businesses and fast food restaurants, and the destruction of many historic homes. However, these little pockets, now smaller in dimension, are still wonderful.

Filled with historic homes and old-growth trees on sprawling lawns, neighborhoods like Oakdene are ripe for revival. With so few options regarding housing within walking and biking distance of downtown, we are seeing many older homes being renovated in some of our oldest enclaves. Historic Oakdene Place is poised to be one of the next desirable downtown neighborhoods.

Oakdene place is one of Rome’s oldest neighborhoods. Beautifully situated along the winding banks of the Etowah River, bordered by East Sixth Street and Second Avenue, Oakdene started as a planned neighborhood of 111 lots in 1880 and was comprised of 27 acres.

Colonel Brower came to Rome from Chicago in 1878 and bought the budding development from the East Rome Town Company a couple of years later. The Browers lived at 6 Coral Avenue, the house said to be the location where a young Woodrow Wilson met his first wife, Ellen Axson. Colonel Brower and his family lived there until 1890 when they returned to Illinois.

Although Oakdene Place never became the large neighborhood it was intended to be, it nevertheless holds beautiful examples of many Queen Anne and Neoclassical style houses and was home to many prominent leaders in the early days of Rome.

Oakdene Place was placed on the National Historic Register in 1983 after tireless work by homeowners helped to secured Oakdene this coveted spot. Many of the original historic homes still stand: The 1922 Andrews House at 606 River Ave.; the Trammell House at 308 E. Sixth St., built in 1901 by the president of the Trammell Brick Foundry; and possibly the most interesting, 705 River Ave., the carriage house built in 1890 for the home of Junius Hillyer on Coral Avenue. Many more homes are waiting to be recognized for their unique beauty and craftsmanship in this lovely little enclave.

As the interest and appeal of living in large cities seems to have waned, increasing numbers of younger buyers are indeed seeking to live in small towns.

In the New York Times – The Edit, Ian Caveny writes that when people have more free time they become free to spend more time connecting to their community. Instead of spending hours in a car each week, who wouldn’t want to spend more time with family, volunteering, meeting friends, strolling tree lined streets, and lingering over a longer meal at a neighborhood restaurant?

Ditching cars and long commutes to live easier in a smaller town seems to be a Millennial endeavor and it sounds like a very good notion! Finding the perfect home in a small town is the icing on the cake and Oakdene deserves a second look.

Wendy Lignell, a local realtor, comes from a family with deep roots in Rome’s downtown neighborhoods. She has a special interest in the history and architecture of Oakdene Place.

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