Lam ran the business for just over 50 years, meaning he probably left the building in the early 1990’s and, as far as I know, no one else ever moved in. I have to wonder if Lam drove past his old store every now and then, watching it slowly decay as vandals and drug addicts took it over. He is said to have loved driving through town in large automobiles. Or maybe he stayed away, knowing he’d only become saddened by what he saw.
Lam died on July 7, 2006 at the age of 85. It was certainly a blessing that he did not have to hear of the murder of 31-year-old Lawanda Person Tanksley nearly five years later in the place where he’d done his life’s work. It was May 15, 2011 when Ms. Tanksley’s body was found in Lam’s Store. As far as I know, her murderer has never been found.
That said, Lam’s was a unique and beautiful building with a long history. Having missed a chance to visit pre-murder, when I was back in Augusta in the spring of 2010, I was looking forward to finally checking it out. However, another drawback of documenting abandoned buildings is that they tend to unexpectedly disappear. Such was the case with Lam’s Store. Aside from its structural problems, after the murder the building’s reputation was so tarnished that there wasn’t much left to do but take it down. Now there’s just grass where Jack Lam spent over 50 years of his life. The only photos I've ever seen of the inside of Lam’s Store are HERE. Note that the photographer strongly dissuades anyone from visiting and was clearly unnerved by the murder and the drug paraphernalia scattered over the floor. But they also found the remains of an old piano and, hey, that’s pretty cool, right?
So, instead of stepping into Lam Brothers Food Store, you mostly get photos taken at 811 D’Antignac St., just a couple blocks away. Also vacant for years, 811 D’Antignac was built somewhere between 1850 and 1870 in the Greek Revival style. Its owner was Atlanta Gas Light Co. as late as 2006 and I suppose they might still own the place. Beyond that, I can find no record of who has lived in the house or what they might have done with their lives. Anyone?
I got some of the background for this post from this article on Augusta's African-American landmarks, but mostly I used Jack Lams' obituary and a crime report. The Lam’s Store photo is from the Chronicle and it physically pains me to put it here knowing I never got a shot of the building. Like I said, pathologically compelled.
We’ll make one more quick stop at an historic house I didn’t get into and thus walked away from with nothing but a few mediocre external shots. That will make three. Then, we’ll re-visit the remaining two of the original three upper Broad Street houses and, for our final Central Savannah River Area post, we’ll check out the empty field that was once a major concert destination in South Carolina to see if we can hear the ghosts of Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway on the wind.