Henry Harford Cumming envisioned Augusta as the “Lowell of the South” [in reference to the textile hub in Massachusetts] and was the driving force behind the Augusta Canal. The first nine-mile section was completed between 1845-1846, and within a couple of years three mills had already been risen along the waterway. Built near the end of the Canal Era [roughly 1800-1850], it was amazingly successful, as most Southern canals never were, and is the only intact industrial canal still in use in the South today. It was lengthened and enlarged between 1872-1877. It was after this expansion that most of the mills associated with Augusta’s industrial heritage were constructed. These included the Enterprise, Blanche, Sibley, and King Mills. I believe the present gatehouse dates to the expansion period in the 1870s.
A V-shaped dam diverts the Savannah River at the headgates and below it are what is now known as the Savannah Rapids. It is a popular recreation area and a very picturesque location.
Along the walkway at the gatehouse you’ll notice hundreds, if not thousands, of modern padlocks. These have been left behind by visitors over the years, as a tongue-in-cheek tribute to the place. I’m not sure when the tradition started, but it has definitely caught on.
Augusta Canal Industrial District, National Register of Historic Places + National Historic Landmark + Augusta Canal National Heritage Area