During their courtship, my parents would travel the dusty summer roads of the 1920s on dates from Cornelia to the shores of beautiful Lake Burton. Along with other young people of that time, Mom and Dad would often stop at noon to sample the wonderful country cuisine at LaPrade’s Fish Camp.
Around the turn of the 20th Century, Mr. John LaPrade purchased 600 acres of land near the community of Burton, Georgia. Georgia Power Electrical Company was building Lake Burton as a power supply to harness the Tallulah River, so Mr. LaPrade built the camp to house and feed the lake’s engineers and workers.
When Lake Burton was completed and filled in 1925, LaPrade’s became an excellent fishing retreat, and eventually evolved into a rustic mountain resort where Georgia families traditionally came to enjoy fresh mountain air, quiet picturesque surroundings, and good home cooking away from the crowded and noisy cities.
The mountain tradition of dining and living was experienced at LaPrade’s Camp through the ownerships of Mr. John, his son Buford LaPrade, and the Nichols family, who ran the camp and restaurant from 1972 to 2002. Then, LaPrade’s investors bought it and planned a residential and commercial development. Following a financial loss of 50 of the original 91 acres by foreclosure in November of 2004 and a mysterious fire that destroyed the famous restaurant on the morning of Mother’s Day 2005, they decided to sell. The LaPrade’s Marina LLC was formed and purchased the property in March of 2006. It consists of 12 acres and 1,950 feet of frontage along Lake Burton, with an additional 30 acres located directly across Highway 197. Currently LaPrade’s has a newly completed Adirondack style 2 story building in a round log timber framed style. This main building houses the Lakeside Grill and Bar, Water’s Edge Restaurant and the marina store. Boat slips are available for rent; two fuel docks, a boat showroom, and a full service boat repair are also on site. Lastly, there is a beautiful Adirondack style pavilion with a stacked stone fireplace that can be rented for rehearsal dinners, weddings, family reunions, and birthday parties.
No doubt, the new LaPrade’s Marina facility is modern and beautiful, but many of us old timers miss the old restaurant. It was the length of four rooms and blended into a sloping, wooded hillside adjacent to Lake Burton. The open dining room was furnished with boarding house style tables, and was one of the most popular eating and getaway places in the Georgia Mountains.
Everyone sat elbow to elbow while passing heaping bowls and platters. It was family style eating, all you could eat, and at LaPrade’s, one didn’t count calories. The large platters included roasts, vegetables, fried chicken, slaw, dumplings, gravy, biscuits, cornbread, ham, sausage, eggs, cobblers, potatoes, rice, cakes, relishes, jams and jellies, just to mention a few, and it was all fresh. In fact, all the vegetables and most of the pork and chicken came from the self-sufficient LaPrade’s farm, and many of the relishes and jams were “put up” in the LaPrade’s kitchen.
The only catch to enjoying this feast was that you had to be there at scheduled seating times. Therefore, reservations were a smart idea.
Before each seating, the rocking chair porches were lined with people waiting. These folks included the “summer people” from nearby lakeside homes, local year-round residents, cabin guests, hikers, bikers, boaters, hungry vacationers from all over, and Atlantans who drove up for no other reason than to eat at LaPrade’s.
Rustic cabins were also available, but they had no phone or TV. As a cabin guest, however, three meals were included for about the cost of an ordinary budget motel without food. The spotless, rustic cabins were left over from the fishing camp days. They included the basics like bathroom, screened porch, quilts, home made furniture and linoleum-covered floors, but no kitchens.
The surrounding mountains still offer plenty of natural scenic beauty plus other attractions. These include two nationally known hiking trails, (the Appalachian Trail and the Bartram Trail). Additionally, one can easily visit the deepest gorge east of the Mississippi, (Tallulah Gorge State Park,) or Georgia’s highest mountain with views of four states, (Brasstown Bald,) any of thirteen water falls in Rabun County, and the Alpine village of Helen in one day, but the old LaPrade’s is gone forever.