Does This Southern Town Look Familiar?
"It's not a suburb. It's a town." That's how Atlanta transplant Cathy Dobbs describes photogenic Covington, Georgia. Dobbs, who has lived in Covington for over 20 years, is an associate broker with Coldwell Banker Gerri Murphy Realty in Covington. "My youngest son has friends he has known from preschool all the way through college," she says. "Sometimes, if you live in a fast-paced place, you miss that. You don't have time to build those kinds of relationships."
What's the Vibe?
Covington's less than an hour east of Atlanta, but it's worlds apart from its sprawling urban neighbor. The historic downtown is built around a square accented by an iconic courthouse, with lots of locally owned shops, galleries, and eateries. Covington has a thriving arts community, so it's not unusual to hear concerts on the square or see kids biking to music lessons. Some areas downtown are zoned for golf carts. "You can go to your church, go to your doctor, and get your hair done—all in a golf cart," Dobbs says.
With just under 14,000 residents, this is an everybody-knows-everybody kind of place where locals like to visit each other on the front porch and throw lots of dinner parties. New industries are coming to town, creating jobs that make small-town life even more attractive. "There's such a sense of community in Covington," Dobbs says. "If something bad happens to someone in town, everybody rallies around them. Living in a small town, that's what it's all about."
Claim to Fame
It's no surprise that a town so uber-Southern has attracted film crews. Covington "played" Mystic Falls, Virginia, on The Vampire Diaries. Other TV series, namely In the Heat of the Night and The Dukes of Hazzard, were also shot here. Among Covington's 60+ movie credits are Remember the Titans, Friday the 13th, and Madea's Family Reunion. Three Ring Studios soon will open in town, bringing more jobs and more incentive for Tinsel Town to head South.
You can find affordable chains in town, but check out The Twelve Oaks, a stately antebellum mansion turned B&B. It's also popular as a wedding venue, film location, and lodging for casts and crews. Gone with the Wind author Margaret Mitchell reportedly sent a picture of the house, which she clipped from an Atlanta Journal article, to a historian who was advising set designers for the movie. Mitchell wrote below the picture, "I like this for Ashley's home."
Grazin' & Sippin'
You can't get more local than the Town House Café, established by Mrs. Ossie Lee R. Stone Hamm in 1964 and now in its third generation of family ownership. Covington's mayor and his wife own Bread and Butter, a popular bakery and coffee shop. Other local favorites include the Mystic Grille (yes, that Mystic Grille), Amici Covington, and the pub fare at Irish Bred Pub & Restaurant.
Want to Move There?
"There are pockets in Atlanta—places like Decatur and Brookhaven—that are really great communities, but the home prices are skyrocketing," Dobbs explains. "Recent college grads who are just starting out can't afford a half-million dollars for a bungalow. So they're starting to look outside the perimeter of I-285."
In Covington, she said, you can get a spacious historic home on a nice lot for less than that—you'll need to renovate it, which sometimes costs as much as the purchase price, but you can get into one in the 350s to 450s.
Dobbs says that, within the Historic District, a 3-bedroom, 2-bath rancher that hasn't been renovated will sell in the low 200s; something larger with nice renovations will run between the 250s and 270s; a really nice lot can boost that price into the 300s.
Bonus: Now that all those pesky vampires have left town, the streets are safer than ever.
Southerners know a great small town like Covington when we see one. Here are some more things we're savvy about:
Don't even ask us why we all think the SEC is way more important than the NFL. It just is. And that's all there is to it. Bless your heart.