By Jennifer McKee
Incorporated in 1870 after its founders sought an alternative to the neighboring, boisterous town of Saw Dust, Harlem, Georgia is still known for its wholesome values. Its streets are dotted with mom-and-pop shops and restaurants, and historic dwellings can be found throughout the town.
Like its namesake near New York City, Harlem is regarded for its culture. The Georgia town was named by a visiting New York resident who thought it resembled Harlem, New York’s artistic community. It’s a quick 30-minute drive from Augusta.
One longtime gathering site was the Columbia Theatre, the first movie theater in Columbia County that ran new releases from 1949 until it closed in 1963. The building is currently home to a museum that highlights the life and career of Harlem’s most famous native son, Oliver Hardy.
Born in Harlem in 1892, Oliver Hardy rose to fame after teaming up with Laurel Hardy in the famed comedy duo, considered the greatest film comedy duo of all time. Although they were together only 28 years, Laurel & Hardy made more than 100 movies.
The museum showcases the story of both Laurel and Hardy’s lives, how they met, their careers and cultural influence. Every year, it hosts the Oliver Hardy Festival on the first weekend in October, which draws aficionados from across the world.
In keeping with its film heritage, Harlem also hosts a summer movies series in which it screens movies on the lawn of its library. For more information, visit @harlemga
Laurel & Hardy in “Big Business,” ©Insomnia Cured Here/Wikimedia Commons
Laurel & Hardy mural, Columbia Theatre photos, ©Lee Coursey/Flickr, Creative Commons