Lawrenceville Marks 200 Years with Big Celebration
Lawrenceville’s Bicentennial celebration went off with a bang Wednesday night, as residents packed a brand-new venue built by the city on the historic downtown square.
The recently opened Lawrenceville Arts Center played host to the evening’s festivities, which included speeches from current and former leaders in the facility’s Grand Theater.
City Manager Chuck Warbington was the first among these to take the stage, wishing Lawrenceville a happy 200th birthday. Gwinnett Magazine’s Nathan McGill introduced Warbington and other dignitaries as the crowd applauded.
Warbington offered some historic perspective to explain just how long the city has been around, telling those in attendance “our intent is to acknowledge our complete journey … To consider where we started as a city, where we are as a community and never stop dreaming and planning for the future of Lawrenceville.”
Mayor David Still then took the stage.
“God had a very special plan for the City of Lawrenceville 200 years ago. And each one of you play a unique part in that plan,” Still said. He then thanked Aurora Theatre staff “for partnering with us tonight to bring you this special presentation of Christmas Canteen on the Grand Stage. You are all in for a treat.”
Christmas Canteen, which followed the Bicentennial celebration, is a longstanding tradition for Aurora Theater. Theatre staff manage and provide programming for the new venue. The event also included the unveiling of a 100-year time capsule to be buried for residents to discover a century from now.
After Mayor Still spoke, Gwinnett County Commission Chairwoman Nicole Love Hendrickson took the stage. “Just three years ago,” she told the crowd, “Gwinnett County was celebrating its own bicentennial.
“The city of Lawrenceville and Gwinnett County are forever intertwined for a number of reasons,” Hendrickson said. “Lawrenceville is centrally located in the heart of Gwinnett. Lawrenceville is a destination for shopping, dining and special events. And daily, thousands enter the city of Lawrenceville in pursuit of excellence through their jobs in health care, small business and county and municipal government.”
Added Hendrickson: “The original founders of Lawrenceville helped set us in motion to become the County we are now, and they started to shape our path 200 years ago today.”
As Hendrickson exited the stage, Gwinnett Magazine’s McGill introduced community leader and activist Mike Levengood, who discussed the educational history and legacies of Lawrenceville and Gwinnett County.
“Education has been a foundation for the City of Lawrenceville from the start,” Levengood said, taking the crowd through the timeline of education in the city – from the opening of the city’s first public school in 1895 to its merging with the county in 1948 to the state of local education today with Gwinnett County Public Schools. “The first class to graduate from Lawrenceville High School in 1899 had four members – all women. A dramatic contrast to the Central Gwinnett High School Class of 2021 with 460 students and Discovery High School Class of 2021 with 684 students. We have come so far,” Levengood said.
After honoring the contributions that education has played in Lawrenceville’s success, McGill once again took the stage to give a run down of all the ways Lawrenceville has celebrated its Bicentennial year. There were special t-shirts, commemorative pins, coins and historical flashbacks at each City Council meeting. There was a new Facebook group launched for city memories and they even had a Bicentennial cornhole board that traveled around all year as part of the Peach State Cornhole League.
“One of the coolest ways the City has celebrated this year is with a Bicentennial Podcast, hosted by Gwinnett Magazine and yours truly. It’s there we discuss important issues, such as ‘do we pronounce the city, Law·ruhn·svil or Law-ruhn-svul,’” McGill joked.
The event’s final speaker, former Mayor Judy Jordan Johnson, took the stage.
Johnson reminisced on her time as mayor as well as Lawrenceville’s history under the leadership of her father, H. Rhodes Jordan, who served in the same role.
“I have watched Lawrenceville go through many changes in my lifetime,” Johnson said. “But through it all, the heart of the people, their dedication to the success of the community and devotion to their families were unwavering. I am honored to stand here tonight and celebrate the 200th birthday of the town I love dearly. Thank you all for being here and for the roles you each play in the success of the City of Lawrenceville.”
Added Johnson: “You, too, are the people of Lawrenceville. God bless you.”
Mayor Still and city council members then appeared on stage for the presentation of a giant cake as attendees sang happy birthday to the City of Lawrenceville before attendees were entertained with a special version of Aurora Theater’s Christmas Canteen.