Tuesday, October 12, 2004

West Side Story

By the time Broad St. exits onto Washington Rd., on the far west side of downtown, it's all over. Washington Rd. signals the beginning of Augusta's mad dash to exhibit all that is wrong with America in the most gaudy and garish tones possible. And I'm not just saying that because Augusta National Golf Course is half a mile down the road. Laughably posted as a Scenic Byway (?!), Washington Rd. is a sprawling asphalt blight of Applebee's, Toyota dealerships, Hooter's, and several Kroger's. Naturally, I lived nearby. However, there are some interesting things off west Broad St., just before Washington Rd., including this old laundry/dry cleaning facility. I passed the back of this place on the John C. Calhoun Expressway everyday and wondered what it was. So, eventually, I went to have a look. Here it is, fronting onto Ellis St. Yup, THAT Ellis St., but much farther down, in a residential neighborhood. There didn't appear to be much inside and the lack of a roof (and, consequently, floor on the second story) made any attempt to get in seem sorta worthless.

I also saw the burned-out roof of this house from up above via the John C. Calhoun on my way home each day. I couldn't figure out why they left what was clearly a destroyed home sitting in amongst the few other houses scattered about. So, I went to check it out. What I found was a little stretch of St. Luke St. tucked up against the pilings of the raised expressway. Barely a normal block in length, it was totally vacant. The house was filled with dozens of old tires.

I mentioned that I don't take pictures of places where people live--and I don't. There's no one home at the place below and there hasn't been for some time. Actually, that's not strictly true. Occasionally there'd be people sleeping on the porch. I never got a chance to go inside for this reason--someone was always there before me. Except in this photo, when I was on my own and, I admit it, chickened out. Boo.

Below is the third and last house on what I saw of St. Luke St. In my "research" (yeah, searching Google) I found little mention of the street. According to the records of Magnolia Cemetery, Jasper Toole, a wood dealer, lived at 1317 St. Luke St., but died in February 1899 of LaGrippe (that's influenza, I guess). The only other listing is of a supply store somewhere on St. Luke selling everything from burglar alarms (wholesale) to cash registers. Geez, I sure didn't see it. Or maybe I did. Hmm. Anyway, there was some work being done on surrounding blocks and a couple old homes in particular looked like they were being seriously renovated. So maybe people will move back into this out-of-the-way corner. Still, it's probably no fun having the expressway rumbling overhead.

There are some other features of note off west Broad St. The Ezekiel Harris House, the second oldest structure in Augusta, is located there. Built in 1797, it's considered to be the finest example of Federal architecture in Georgia. Completely refurbished, it's open to the public as a museum. At least, it's supposed to be. I went there three or four times during what were supposed to be regular visiting hours and the place was always closed. Since it's set behind a tall white fence I don't have any street level photos either. It's supposedly haunted by various folks involved in the hanging of thirteen Colonialists by the English in 1780 at a spot nearby, but that hardly seems like a good excuse for never being open.

Also, the west side of Broad St. provides some of the best access to the Augusta Canal. The Augusta Canal and sites close by require more extensive posts of their own. We'll get to them, but other places beckon first.

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