Historic Augusta hopes to knit together Hill and downtown

Historic Augusta took a bold step forward in protecting Augusta’s historic buildings by designating an entire neighborhood as part of its now-annual endangered properties list.

With more than 1,000 properties in the neighborhood, the Harrisburg area encompasses Colonial and Revolutionary War sites, the Ezekiel Harris House, portions of the Augusta Canal, Sibley and King mills and adjacent mill housing, churches, school and government buildings. The area was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1990, but has never been adopted as a local historic district protected under the Augusta Historic Preservation Ordinance.

“It is a complete community,” said Historic Augusta Executive Director Erick Montgomery. “But it is a community at risk.”

The organization hopes that by recognizing an entire area, it will spur investment and preservation-minded renovation in the collection of mostly one-story cottages that make up the residential parts of the district. In addition, Harrisburg could possibly connect the city’s downtown and Old Towne districts with the Summerville area.

“It’s got good potential that’s not realized,” said developer Bryan Haltermann, of Haltermann Properties. “One of the great potentials for Harrisburg in my mind is that it’s a good neighborhood to live in. It’s one of the few places you can buy nice homes for less than $100,000. It’s also full of historic buildings and it’s in close proximity of downtown and the medical complex.”

The neighborhood also includes the area that has been spotlighted for the multimillion-dollar Kroc Center in Chaffee Park, as well as the Sibley Mill refurbishment currently in the works by developer Clay Boardman.

Harrisburg sits in Commissioner Betty Beard’s district, as do most of the properties on the list.

“We feel for our city to be healthy, this entire area needs to be healthy,” Beard said at the Sept. 12 meeting.

Four other properties were named to the list. Lam’s Store, with its parapet façade and iron balcony, represents the corner store. The W.S. Hornsby House at 1518 Twiggs St. is a Colonial Revival style building that was the home of the founder of the Pilgrim Life Insurance Company. The Lowrey Wagon Factory was for a time used as a place to manufacture shoes for Confederate troops, and then as the city’s first black school.

Finally, the historic preservation organization designated the west side of the 500 Block of James Brown Boulevard as endangered. The east side of the block has been renovated in recent years.

Properties on last year’s inaugural list have almost all seen improvement, according to Historic Properties Committee Chair Anne Catherine Murray, including the old YWCA gymnasium and natatorium, the Southern Mills Co., the Stovall-Barnes House and Robert Heath House on Greene Street and the Reynolds Street Depot.

Still on Historic Augusta’s watchlist are Trinity CME Church, the historic Waterworks Building on Central Ave., the old Veterans Administration hospital buildings on Wrightsboro Road, Saint Benedict’s Boarding School on 12th Street and the Richmond County Board of Education-owned Old Davidson School on Telfair Street.

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