The town of Calhoun, which began as a stop along the Western & Atlantic Railroad, was named the county seat of the newly formed Gordon County in 1850. It was a transportation hub for agricultural products and a center for general merchandise trade. After a tornado and destructive fire in 1888, the business district was rebuilt mostly in brick. By 1917, a section of the Dixie Highway (later U. S. Highway 41) had been built along Wall Street. Downtown streets began being paved in 1919, reflecting the growing popularity of the automobile. Population growth in the early 20th century brought retail stores, grocers, and garages, as well as a theater, hotel, and hospital.
Calhoun’s significance is derived from its representative collection of commercial buildings that reflect design and construction traditions commonly found in Georgia towns from the mid-19th through the mid-20th centuries. Stylistic influences include Italianate, Neoclassical Revival, and Colonial Revival. Most commercial development is contained in a few linear blocks along the north-south corridor of Wall Street, and along two blocks of the east-west Court Street. Contributing buildings include both attached and detached commercial buildings dating from circa 1877 to 1964. Most were constructed prior to 1930. The buildings tend to be one to three stories in height. Prior to the mid-1910s, these buildings were generally faced in red brick with corbelled brick or pressed metal cornices. During the late 1910s and 1920s, brick of various textures and colors was popular for both structural and decorative uses. The relatively few commercial buildings from the 1930s and 1940s tended to be free standing and feature simple monochromatic facades with little ornamentation.
The district is also important for its intact historic town plan. Downtown streets are aligned in a modified grid pattern between the railroad to the west and the steep slopes of Mount Alto to the east. Calhoun has also filled the role as the historic commercial center of Gordon County and the surrounding region. Typically the county seat filled this role, and provided for the day-to-day commercial needs of nearby rural residents, such as retail stores, offices, and professional services.
Community landmark buildings include the 1935 U.S. Post Office (now the police station at 200 North Wall Street, Calhoun, GA 30701) and the 1939 City Hall and Fire Station, which both feature Colonial Revival details. The Gem Theatre, which also contains the Roland Hayes Museum, occupied the Moss-Johnson Building (circa 1920) after 1927. The 1964 Calhoun National Bank (now Gordon County Government Plaza) retains an excellent example of a modernist bank façade.