In 1881, Jacob Elsas, a German-Jewish immigrant, opened the Fulton Bag and Cotton Mill and built up the small surrounding community of shotgun houses for his 2,500 mill workers. Originally known as Factory Town, the residents were largely poor whites from rural North Georgia. There are a few stories floating around explaining how the neighborhood received its unique current name. The one most repeated is that the transplanted Appalachian residents kept cabbages cooking while away at work at the mill all day. In an era with no central cooling, (and hence windows-open much of the year!), that recognizable, and well, distinct odor permeated the small streets. For almost one hundred years Cabbagetown remained home to a tight-knit community of people whose lives were more or less “anchored” by the mill. Its closing in 1977 is when the surrounding neighborhood deteriorated.
In the 1990s, Cabbagetown underwent revitalization efforts. Beginning in 1996, the mill was renovated into the nation’s largest residential loft community: the Fulton Cotton Mill Lofts. Never a stranger to adversity, Cabbagetown has had several close calls. In 1999, a five-alarm fire swept through the east building and destroyed several nearby homes. And a tornado in March 2008 damaged parts of the loft and many of the historic homes in Cabbagetown. Despite these challenges, Cabbagetown residents have always rallied and rebuilt, perhaps channeling some of the resiliency of their early Appalachian counterparts.