Southern Agenda

Mine Your Own Business

When Freddy Welch’s family bought the Smith House in Dahlonega, in 1970, they had no idea the restaurant and inn would be such a gold mine—literally. Nearly forty years later, during renovations to the basement dining room, the family discovered a mine shaft running along a gold vein, a vestige of the town’s gold rush in the early 1800s. “It has always been the story around town that the Smith House sat on a gold vein, but we didn’t really believe it,” says Welch, who now runs the place with his wife, children, and grandchildren. Today guests can drop in to see the vein, along with bottles and other artifacts pulled from the dirt. The Smith House opened as a restaurant and boardinghouse in 1922, and more than a hundred years later, visitors still pile in for the family’s fried chicken and homemade sides. And although a vintage cash register on-site—owned by the house’s original builder—has a function to accept payment in gold, nowadays they take cards and cash, too.