MORE THAN FOUNDERS


The busiest highways running through Peachtree City, Highway 74 and Highway 54, bear the names of two men that are credited with the founding of our special town, but what do we really know about these men? I have lived in Fayette County for ten years, and until I did a little research, I had no idea who Floy Farr and Joel Cowen were other than the “founders of Peachtree City.” The story of these two men is fascinating as is the overall history of the geographical area that has become our beloved “Bubble.”

Joel H. Cowan was a junior at Georgia Tech in 1957 majoring in industrial management when the father of one of his fraternity brothers, Peter S. Knox, Jr., approached him with the idea of building a new city. Knox had become interested in this idea after new towns were being built as satellite cities outside of London, England after World War II.

There were many attempts to develop similar, planned communities in the United States during the 1950’s and 1960’s and among the most successful are Reston, Virginia and our own Peachtree City. Knox liked the idea of creating a city in close proximity to Atlanta and felt the undeveloped area in Fayette County would work perfectly for this venture.

Backed financially by Knox, two real estate agents walked into Redwine Bank in Tyrone and asked the manager, Floy Farr, about buying approximately 15,000 acres of land in western Fayette County. With Farr’s help, land was purchased for the establishment of

the new town that would be named Peachtree City. In 1959 Joel Cowan drew up the 40-page charter that was signed by the governor, officially establishing Peachtree City, naming Cowan as mayor and designating a city council. There were many attempts to develop similar, planned communities in the United States during the 1950’s and 1960’s and among the most successful are Reston, Virginia and our own Peachtree City.

Knox liked the idea of creating a city in close proximity to Atlanta and felt the undeveloped area in Fayette County would work perfectly for this venture. Backed financially by Knox, two real estate agents walked into Redwine Bank in Tyrone and asked the manager, Floy Farr, about buying approximately 15,000 acres of land in western Fayette County. With Farr’s help, land was purchased for the establishment of the new town that would be named Peachtree City. In 1959 Joel Cowan drew up the 40-page charter that was signed by the governor, officially establishing Peachtree City, naming Cowan as mayor and designating a city council.

Floy Farr’s influence on Fayette County extends beyond his role as a banker negotiating land deals. Farr, who was born in Tyrone in 1912 and lived until the age of 94, was credited with bringing telephone service to the county after World War II. Farr also established the Coweta-Fayette Electric Corporation and served on its board for 61 years. He was seen as a visionary and was very involved in the community throughout his life. Farr was on the Fayette County Board of Education for 10 years and was one of the original directors of the Fayette County Kiwanis Club. Throughout his lifetime, he was awarded various honors including Citizen of the Year in 1966 and Business Person of the Year in 1983.

In 1989, at the dedication of the section of Highway 54 named in honor of Floy Farr, the mayor of Peachtree City, Fred Brown said, “He has done a tremendous amount of good for the community beyond just its founding.” In 2000, in honor of his wife who suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease, Farr helped establish the Southern Crescent Memory Walk, a significant fundraising event for the Georgia Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.

At the 50th Anniversary celebration of Peachtree City in 2014, Joel Cowan was present at the dedication of the Founders’ Corner at the City Hall Plaza. Busts of Cowan and Farr were unveiled along with a plaque in their honor. Even though Joel Cowan was “hands-on” with the development of Peachtree City, driving the bulldozer to create the first road of our community and setting the dynamite to blow up the beaver dams where the man-made dam would be built to create Lake Peachtree,

Cowan credits the early inhabitants who came with a pioneer’s spirit for setting the tone for the future success of the city. “They came with that spirit in mind, and I say that is what put the culture---that we still enjoy today---on this city. And I think that’s what made it great now, not for what I did but for what was done later, and that’s the important thing.” (Taken from The Citizen, “2 Men and a Vision: Peachtree City”, May 6, 2014)

Not only did Joel Cowan help to establish Peachtree City, serving as mayor from 1959-1963, he also founded the first upscale shopping center in the South, Phipps Plaza. He owns the investment company, Habersham & Cowan, Inc. and serves as Professor of the Practice for the Scheller College of Business at his alma mater. Cowan also established Georgia Tech’s Cowan-Turner Center in Servant Leadership. More recently, Cowan has shifted his focus to international affairs especially the emerging economies in Russia, China, and Central and South Asia. Cowan co-founded the Central Eurasia Leadership Academy in Istanbul and has sponsored programs geared towards educating women and making a positive social impact in the region. Currently, Cowan is a director for the EastWest Institute in New York.

#Community #LocalHistory

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