A name so saccharine it sounds almost fictional, Sugar Hill, Georgia is home to nearly 20,000 residents, a new and flourishing downtown and a bit of a mystery.
Local legend has it that the sweet city got its name after a horse-drawn freight wagon lost a wheel on a high hill, spilling its load of sugar—hence, “the hill where the sugar spilled.” (And, probably, “the hill with all the ants.”)
“But,” said Sugar Hill City Councilman Marc Cohen, “there’s another story that said when there were gold mines in the area, the gold had the consistency of sugar, so when you ran your fingers over it, it crumbled.”
While the town seems to have embraced the former story as its history, neither is documented fact; we do know, however, that the area was called Sugar Hill long before its official incorporation in 1939. Before incorporation, the area was part of a route from the railroad in Buford to the City of Cumming.
In 2001, a drastic and disproportionate increase in natural gas prices resulted in 1,600 residents signing a petition calling for a referendum to abolish both the municipal utility and the city itself. The effort to revoke the city’s charter was ultimately unsuccessful; the city council responded by reducing gas prices to be comparable to the surrounding area.
Today, the City of Sugar Hill showcases its origin story in a mural in its downtown area that features the city’s sweet history. The mural on the west side of The Suite Spot building has a series of illustrations that serve as a timeline: modern-day City Hall, Magnum’s Grocery, the oldest home in the city, gold miners and, of course, the wagon that lost its wheel.