Tag Archives: Georgia Restorations

Restoration of a Greek Revival Cottage, Talbot County

Rising above the pristine countryside of Talbot County, this house first caught my attention a couple of years ago. At the time, work was at an earlier phase and it didn’t look as grand as it does today. I made a mental note to check on it when I could but was still not prepared for the awesome presence of the house, viewed from the incline of the clay and gravel driveway.

I recently learned that my family’s longtime friend Mike Buckner owned the house and was restoring it. I was in the area and dropped by to purchase some books and get some of his wonderful stone-ground grits and he offered to take me on a tour. Though he wouldn’t say so, Mike is an all-around Renaissance man and serious guardian of Talbot County’s history and architecture. He has personally saved and salvaged numerous endangered structures over the years.

Mike moved this 1840s Greek Revival Cottage, which once stood near Zion Episcopal Church in Talbotton, to his property and decided to transform it into a raised cottage. The brick piers supporting the cottage were salvaged from the old Talbotton depot, proof that Mike doesn’t believe in wasting anything. The Doric columns were made to order.

The lower floor will be somewhat modern, while keeping with the style of the house, and the original section of the cottage will be sensitively restored. Historic mantels will be put back in place and the floors will be spiffed up. Plaster walls will be replaced. A widow’s walk has already been placed on top of the structure. I will definitely be visiting when all the work is done.

On the back side of the house Mike is building a porch, which will afford some of the most beautiful views from one of the highest elevations in this part of Talbot County.

It’s an amazing sight and the entire project is a testament to the value of the renewal of historic resources.

Atlanta and Hawkinsville Railroad Depot, 1888, Zebulon

The Atlanta and Hawkinsville Railroad was chartered in 1886 and, though it never reached Hawkinsville, built this depot along the way in 1888. The line was renamed the Atlanta and Florida Railway in 1893 and was sold to the Southern Railway in 1895.

In recent years, the depot was beautifully restored and is now home to the Lions Club and used for other functions, as well.

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

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

Miller Theater, 1940, Augusta

The Miller Theater, a landmark of the Art Moderne style, opened in 1940 and was one of Augusta’s busiest entertainment venues. It was the work of architect Roy A. Benjamin, who also designed the San Marco and Florida [with R. E. Hall] Theatres in Jacksonville, the Marion Theatre in Ocala, and the Sarasota Opera House, among others. The Three Faces of Eve, a popular movie starring Georgia native Joanne Woodward, and based on the bestselling book by Augusta psychiatrists Corbett H. Thigpen and Hervey M. Cleckley, premiered at the Miller in 1957. Years of decline followed its closure as a first-run movie house in 1984, but community involvement and a $25 million renovation made its reopening in 2018 possible.

Broad Street Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

Union Baptist Parsonage, Circa 1870, Augusta

This was built by the Greene Street Methodist Church circa 1870 as a school for Black children and a parsonage. It also served the Union Baptist Church as a parsonage and was later used as a rental property.

Greene Street Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

Union Baptist Church, 1851 & 1888, Augusta

The original section of this structure, dating to circa 1851, served as a mission of the Presbyterian Church, and though that congregation was not successful, the location was used as a Sunday School for enslaved Blacks during the Civil War. It later served as the Greene Street Methodist church before it became the Union Baptist Church in 1883. The Augusta architectural firm of MacMurphy & Story created the exquisite structure seen today in 1888. The Society of Architectural Historians considers it “one of the finest Carpenter Gothic buildings in the state” and I concur. Historic Augusta, Inc., restored the structure for the congregation between 1997-2010.

Greene Street Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

Isaac Clarence Levy House, 1893, Augusta

This Queen Anne House was built for Isaac Clarence Levy (12 January 1850-23 September 1897), a prominent Jewish merchant in turn-of-the-century Augusta. Levy was also active in statewide military circles, reaching the rank of Colonel. It has been restored and is now an apartment house.

Greene Street Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

DeSoto Theatre, 1929, Rome

O. C. Lam, who operated several theatres in the region, opened the DeSoto Theatre on 5 August 1929. Employing the new Vitaphone system, it was the first in the South to feature “talkies”. It served as a first-run theatre until closing in 1982. After extensive restoration, it is again a showplace for Rome, hosting numerous events each year and serving as the home of the Rome Little Theatre.

Between the Rivers Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

Louisville & Nashville Railroad Depot, 1916, Tate

The Louisville & Nashville (L&N) Railroad built this depot to serve Tate, which was the busy company town that grew up around Samuel Tate’s Georgia Marble Company. After passenger service was ended in the 1940s, the depot was eventually owned by CSX. The structure was abandoned for many years, and located across Georgia Highway 53, where it was located dangerously close to the roadway. It was moved across the road and restored in 2016 and will eventually serve as an event space for the community.

Georgia Marble Company and Tate Historic District, National Register of Historic Places