The town of Braselton, incorporated in 1916, occupies thirty-four square miles in northeast Georgia, spreading across Barrow, Gwinnett, Hall, and Jackson counties. In 1876 William Harrison Braselton bought 800 acres of land and built a plantation on it. His eldest son, William Henry, served as the first mayor of Braselton. Descendents of the Braseltons continued to serve on the city council until 2001, when Henry Edward Braselton lost the title of mayor to Pat Graham.
In 1887 one of William Harrison Braselton’s sons, John Oliver, then eight years old, constructed a six-foot-by-six-foot merchandise house in the yard to sell items to the farmhands on the plantation. Eventually, his two brothers joined in his investment, and with their father’s encouragement, the miniature store turned into a thriving business along the railroad tracks that ran through the family’s property. The enterprise became the Braselton Brothers, with the motto “Dealers in Everything.” The store, which in its fourth iteration in 1904 included a brick warehouse, was a sixty-by-ninety-five-foot structure with fourteen-foot walls and a thirty-by-sixty-foot basement for heavy groceries. Serving Gwinnett, Hall, and Jackson counties, the store sold groceries, dry goods, notions, shoes, and millinery and clothing. The town’s first bank was added to the structure in 1911. A tornado destroyed it in 1919, but with help from the community, it was rebuilt.
In the early 1980s Donald and Nancy Panoz, owners of the Elan Corporation, a drug-delivery products and technology company, established the 3,500-acre Chateau Elan Resort and Winery in Braselton, a major attraction. In 1999 Donald Panoz founded the American Le Mans Series (ALMS), a series of automobile endurance races. Many factory-backed and privateer teams compete with some of the world’s most exotic sports cars. The Panoz Esperante, a handmade, American sports car, is built in Braselton by the Panoz Motor Sports Group. The International Motor Sports Association and the premier racing circuit Road Atlanta (which hosted one ALMS race in 2006) are also located in Braselton.
In the late 1980s the actress Kim Basinger, a Georgia native, selected Braselton as a suitable location for developing a tourist attraction that would feature movie and recording studios, boutiques, and a film festival. She headed an investment group that purchased the 1,800-acre town for $20 million. Due to financial problems, however, Basinger dropped her plans and sold the town in 1993 for just $1 million.
Eventually, Braselton expanded its boundaries and attracted major companies, turning the small town into a booming residential and manufacturing area. The Mayfield Dairy Visitors Center opened in 1997, Panoz Auto Development Company opened in 1999, and Haverty’s Distribution Center opened in 2002.
Parks and rural space are important to the residents of Braselton. In addition to the Braselton town park and a multiuse park along the Mulberry River, Braselton is home to the Thompson Mills Forest, Georgia’s official state arboretum. With 330 acres of native trees and plant species from the Appalachian region and the world, the research forest, managed by the University of Georgia’s Warnell School of Forestry, serves as an educational facility.
Many historic structures have been preserved in Braselton, in addition to the Braselton Brothers store. The new town hall was built in 1909 and restored in the late 1990s. The Braselton-Stover House, originally built by Green Braselton in 1918, has been renovated and is a popular site today for weddings and receptions.
According to the 2010 U.S. census, Braselton’s population was 7,511, an increase from the 2000 population of 1,206.