History of Tannery Row & Buford, Georgia
Buford was named after Algernon S. Buford (1826-1911), President of the Atlanta & Richmond Railroad, which came through rich farmland, giving rise to the establishment of the "town" of Buford in 1872, just 30 miles north of Atlanta. Within a few years, Buford was described as the "City of Many Factories" and became the largest city in Gwinnett County based on population.
Buford was the world leader in leather tanning and production due to the efforts of the Allen family, operating the country's largest tanner as well as the "World's Larget Horse Collar Factory."
Saddles were big business in Buford. The craftsmen made custom saddles for many Hollywood stars, including Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, and the cast of Bonanza.
The Collar Factory
In 1897 Elliott and Kennison built a frame structure on the site of the Collar Factory Building. They operated a wood-working plant for the manufacturing of chairs, doors, blinds, handles, spokes, hubs and other wood items. This plant shut down in 1899. In 1902, Clarence Allen (the son of Bona Allen), along with Mr. E. O. Miles, opened a competing tannery in the Elliott and Kennison building. In July of 1903, the Allen-Miles Company closed and filed for bankruptcy. Bona Allen purchased the inventory and equipment and moved it to their tannery building only to suffer its loss by fire in December 1903. Bona Allen reopened their operation in the old Allen-Miles building, expanding it, and in 1904 bricked the fram buildings. As Bona Allen rebuilt its tannery building its business grew and this building was then dedicated to producing horse collars. It was known as the "The Largest Collar Factory in the World" by 1914.
The Shoe Factory
The Tannery Row Artist Colony resides in the complex of Tannery Row. This campus was originally constructed as a shoe factory by the Bona Allen Company. The Shoe Factory building was erected in 1919 by Bona Allen. the plant experienced nearly immediate success by using scrap leather pieces from other divisions of Bona Allen. This gave them a competitive edge, and added to the overall success of Bona Allen. In 1921 there were 521,000 pairs of shoes produced and sold from this building. Output was steadily increased to 3,000 pairs per day. In 1941 the employees of the shoe factory unionized and staged a strike. Bona Allen retaliated by closing the facility. Six months later, the US Army re-opened the plant to repair Army shoes and boots. By August 1943, 1.5 million pairs of shoes had been rebuilt here. 705 civilian employees worked here, turning out 6,000 pairs of shoes per day during World War II. The operation closed after the war.
Visit these other sites to learn more about the City of Buford:
Museum of Buford website
City of Buford website
View this short video on the history of Buford, Georgia: