Category Archives: Augusta GA

Sibley Mill, 1880, Augusta

The Sibley Manufacturing Company was chartered in 1880 and construction of the Sibley Mill began on the site of the old Confederate Powder Works. Jones S. Davis, who also designed the Enterprise Mill, created an extraordinary factory, 528 feet long with three floors containing 24,000 spindles. A fourth floor was added by 1882 and 30 houses for workers were also built. The Neo-Gothic architecture recalled the appearance of the Confederate Powder Works and half a million bricks from the old factory were used in the construction.

The Sibley Mill produced around 2 million pounds of cotton in 1883 and that figure increased to 8.5 million pounds in 1894. It was a symbol of Augusta’s post-war prosperity and a major contributor to the state’s economic growth in the late 19th century.

Sibley Family Coat of Arms

An economic downturn in the early decades of the 20th century saw production fall below capacity by 1911. The Graniteville Company took over management of the mill in 1921 and purchased it in 1940, though the Sibley name remained.

In the late 1970s, the Sibley Mill began producing denim for Levi-Strauss but that ceased by 2006 and the facility shut down. The Augusta Canal Authority purchased the campus in 2010 and its presently being redeveloped as a mixed-use cyber works.

Augusta Canal Industrial District, National Register of Historic Places + National Historic Landmark + Augusta Canal National Heritage Area

Confederate Powder Works Chimney, 1862, Augusta

This historic chimney, standing 150 feet tall, is all that remains of the Confederate Powder Works, which was the only major industrial facility built by the Confederate States. Augusta was chosen as the site of the powder works for the ready power source provided by the adjacent canal and good railroad infrastructure. Lieutenant Colonel George Washington Rains oversaw the construction of the project and Major Charles Shaler Smith was the chief architect and engineer. Construction began in 1862 and when complete consisted of 26 well-spaced buildings stretching two miles along the Augusta Canal. It was soon the second largest powder works in the world. Around 2.75 million pounds of gunpowder were produced here until operations ended in April 1865, though production was slowed by a massive explosion in August 1864. When the Powder Works was demolished during a widening of the canal between 1872-1875, the chimney was saved as a monument at the request of Colonel Rains, who remained in Augusta and later became dean of the Medical College of Georgia. The adjacent Sibley Mill was not part of the Confederate Powder Works but was constructed with bricks leftover from the ruins of the complex.

Augusta Canal Industrial District, National Register of Historic Places + National Historic Landmark + Augusta Canal National Heritage Area

Dennis Cahill Memorial, Augusta

On 29 July 1902, as 9-year-old Dallas Corine Kitchens was taking lunch to her aunt at the Enterprise Mill [visible at left background], she fell from the canal bridge to the water below. Dennis Cahill, an Irish immigrant working for the City of Augusta, noticed her distress and jumped into the canal to save her, but was drowned during the attempt. I believe the girl also died.

A monument of “rugged stones” was placed at the foot of the Butt Bridge to memorialize the tragedy. It reads: Dennis Cahill, By a deed of self-sacrifice such as all humanity claims and counts among its jewels, hallowed this spot and rendered his name worthy of such. Lasting Memory as these rugged stones and this simple tablet can secure. For here he gave his life in a vain attempt to save from drowning a child, having no claim for his sacrifice save Humanity and Helplessness – July 29, 1902. Born Parish of Castlemagner, County Cork, Ireland, June 1861. I am unsure when the monument was placed, but it was likely soon after the tragedy occurred. A marker placed at his gravesite in 2009 by the local chapter of the Ancient Order of Hibernians identifies him as a Hibernian Hero.

Augusta Canal Industrial District, National Register of Historic Places + National Historic Landmark + Augusta Canal National Heritage Area

Archibald Butt Memorial Bridge, 1914, Augusta: Georgia’s Only Titanic Memorial

The Major Archibald Willingham Butt Memorial Bridge [shortened to Butt Bridge, locally] is Georgia’s only monument to a victim of the sinking of RMS Titanic and is also one of the most unusual. In terms of sheer size it’s likely the largest such memorial in the nation. Four regal lions guard the corners of the bridge and bald eagles perch atop lighted globes on both sides. The pedestrian friendly structure is also a great place to view the historic Augusta Canal.

It is quite an ostentatious tribute and by nature a “living memorial”, carrying thousands of cars per day over the Augusta Canal at 15th Street. Nisbet Wingfield, the city engineer and commissioner of public works for the city of Augusta, was the engineer for the bridge; William Henry Deacy, who specialized in memorials, was the architect; and the W. W. Leland Company was responsible for the whimsical decorations. [The reinforced concrete bridge is 52.8′ at its largest span, has an overall length of 155.8′, and has a deck width of 55.8′. It is a T-beam, designed to look like an arch form]. By 1994, the future of the bridge was uncertain, but citizens rallied to save it, with the phrase “Save our Butt” a common refrain throughout Augusta. It took over 20 years for everything to fall into place, but in 2017 rehabilitation of the bridge was complete and the future of one of the city’s most unique monuments was insured.

Major Archibald Butt (26 September 1865-15 April 1912) was born to a once-prominent Augusta family who had fallen into poverty after the Civil War. While attending the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, Butt developed an interest in journalism, eventually editing the school newspaper. Before moving to Washington, D. C., Butt worked at the Louisville Courier-Journal and the Macon Telegraph. Upon arriving in the nation’s capital, he covered the government as a correspondent for a syndicate of newspapers in Nashville, Augusta, Atlanta, and Savannah. Through his skillful journalism, he made valuable connections with Washington’s high society and this ultimately landed him a job as the first secretary of the American Embassy in Mexico (1895-1897). Over the next few years Butt continued to write. He also served as a quartermaster in the Spanish-American War, noted for saving the lives of some 500 mules by turning down poor conditions in Hawaii and sailing on to the Philippines, where he remained until 1904. His logistical skills as a supply manager drew much praise, and he later served as Depot Quartermaster in Havana during America’s 1906 occupation of Cuba.

Bronze relief of Major Butt by Henry Price

In March 1908, he began serving as the military aide-de-camp to President Theodore Roosevelt, and retained that position with the incoming Taft administration. The military aides-de-camp of this time were essentially protocol chiefs and had close working relationships with presidents. Taft considered Major Butt a close friend, and the Taft family, as a result, were fond of visiting Augusta.

Butt never married and was the housemate and companion of the American painter and sculptor, Francis Davis Millet. Millet had been peripherally associated with the salon of John Singer Sargent and knew many of the finest artists in America during his lifetime. In 1912, Butt took leave from his White House job when animosities flared between Taft and Roosevelt, and he and Millet had been vacationing in Europe, highlighted by an audience with Pope Pius X, before embarking for home on the Titanic. It was said that both men helped women and children onto lifeboats before losing their lives, though this may be apocryphal. Taft was known to have been deeply saddened by Butt’s death.

Major Archibald Willingham Butt (detail of circa 1909 photograph) via Library of Congress. Public domain.

A fountain dedicated to the memory of Butt and Millet was placed in President’s Park at the White House in 1913. In April 1914, former-President Taft visited Augusta to pay tribute to his close friend, and spoke at the dedication of the Memorial Bridge.

Augusta Canal Industrial District, National Register of Historic Places + National Historic Landmark + Augusta Canal National Heritage Area

Woolworth Department Store, 1939, Augusta

In its heyday, the F. W. Woolworth Company was one of the nation’s leading retail store chains. The location of the Augusta store was one of the busiest parts of the city when built in 1939. It closed in 1991 and has been empty since.

In 1960, its lunch counter was the site of a sit-in, protesting segregation, by a group of students from Augusta’s Paine College, a historically Black institution.

Broad Street Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

Odd Fellows Hall, Augusta

This late Victorian storefront was home to the International Order of Odd Fellows and is one of several surviving 19th century commercial buildings on 8th Street.

Broad Street Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

Imperial Theatre, 1918, Augusta

The Imperial Theatre was designed by Lloyd Preacher and nationally prominent theatre architect Claude K. Howell for Augusta entertainment entrepreneur Jake Wells. Howell was influenced by Louis Sullivan, as the Sullivanesque style would suggest. It opened on 18 February 1918 with B. F. Keith’s Supreme Vaudeville Company as the house troupe. On 18 April 1918 Charlie Chaplin appeared on the stage selling Liberty war bonds.

A quarantine brought on by the 1918 flu pandemic caused the shutdown of all public spaces in downtown Augusta by early autumn and this created financial difficulties for Wells, who sold the theatre to Lynch Enterprises. The quarantine was soon lifted and by the end of the year the Wells had become the Imperial.

The theatre underwent a partial remodel by Roy A. Benjamin in 1936 and continued to show films until 1981. It reopened as a performing arts space in 1985 and is presently undergoing further renovation.

Broad Street Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

James Oglethorpe Statue, 2003, Augusta

Though he is best known for establishing the Georgia colony and the city of Savannah, James Edward Oglethorpe was also the founder of Augusta. An imposing statue, on the Augusta Common, celebrates his association with the city and depicts him in civilian clothing around the time of the city’s founding. It was created by the noted husband and wife artistic team of Jeffrey H. and Anna Koh Varilla and dedicated on 6 February 2003. It is one of only two life-size tributes to General Oglethorpe in the state, the other being Daniel Chester French’s iconic 1910 Savannah statue, which depicts Oglethorpe in a British general’s uniform.

James Brown Statue, 2005, Augusta

Known as much for his tireless stage presence as his rocky personal life, James Brown (3 May 1933-25 December 2006) was known as the Godfather of Soul, and considered himself “the Hardest Working Man in Show Business”. Born into poverty in Barnwell, South Carolina, he moved at age five with his father and aunt to Augusta, which he considered his hometown. The city honored him with a statue on Broad Street on 6 May 2005. There’s also a James Brown Boulevard in the heart of the city’s historic Black neighborhood.

The sculpture is the work of Montezuma-born orthopedic surgeon John Savage, who has gained notoriety for his artistic pursuits.

News Building, 1917, Augusta

Originally known as the Herald Building, for its first tenant, this Sullivanesque commercial landmark was designed by local architect G. Lloyd Preacher and opened in April 1917. It was a centerpiece of the effort to rebuild the downtown area after the Great Fire of 1916. The building was purchased by the Augusta Chronicle in 1955 after it merged with the Augusta Herald. It serves as the headquarters of Morris Communications today.

Broad Street Historic District, National Register of Historic Places