Back in the 1830’s, just a few years after the dawn of photography, when people were making images on pewter and glass (actually, I think I’d like to make some images on pewter and glass right now), one of the two major pioneers in the field, William H. Fox Talbot, said that photography documents “the injuries of time,” particularly when a contemporary photo is set side-by-side with an earlier shot. The guy had a strong point.
Looking back over City of Dust, I guess most of my photography is explicitly concerned with the “injuries of time.” And even though I rarely have a “before” picture for comparison, the injuries are still pretty obvious. In the case of Augusta, Georgia's Goodale Inn, I don’t need a photogravure of the house made thirty years after its construction in 1799 to witness the ravages of time. I can simply compare a photo I took this past fall with a shot from a visit less than a decade ago. So, let’s take another trip to the Goodale Inn, probably the oldest four-sided brick building in Georgia and possibly one of the oldest largely unaltered structures in the state, period. Although, as you will see, alterations are taking place whether anyone wants them to or not.
Located way out at 745 Sand Bar Ferry Rd., the Goodale Inn was once the first structure travelers saw when entering Augusta from South Carolina, the state line being somewhere in the Savannah River just to the east, the crossing still known as Goodale's Landing. Imagine how many people have gone past the Goodale Inn on horseback and by carriage, including aging Revolutionary War veterans and Civil War soldiers. However, the house may never actually have been an inn.
The building is on land that was owned by Thomas Goodale as part of the 500-acre Goodale Plantation. Goodale also operated the Sand Bar Ferry, bringing travelers across the river. The Goodale Inn might have been built by Charles Goodale, or maybe it was built by Christopher Fitzsimmons, who is reported to have bought the land around 1799-1800. There is some mystery in that chronology, actually. Later, the property was given by Fitzsimmons to Governor Wade Hampton III’s father as part of his daughter Ann’s dowry. The place has quite a history and if you want to read more and see a few photos depicting a less battered Goodale, you can find my original post HERE. Of course, a building this old has to be haunted and the resident ghost is supposedly that of a little girl who turns on lights and slams doors, amongst other things. Particularly in the attic. Well, it is true that the attic light was often on when I’d drive past at night.
Now, before you say, “This is outrageous! The owner of the Goodale Inn should be ashamed for letting this historic structure crumble! Where can I find him so that I might give him a piece of my mind?”, let’s step back for a moment. When I visited the Goodale in 2004 it was long-vacant and long for sale. Following a couple foreclosures, the property was finally auctioned off in 2009 to an Alabama investor with hopes of restoration. This investor paid less than $20,000, which is a fair step down from the original asking price of $250,000. If you think that buying a house built in 1799 for $20,000 might somehow indicate that there are problems, I suspect you’re right. That's the little girl's attic in the photo above, taken in 2004.
But there is some hope yet. A recent structural survey, financed by a $5,000 “intervention grant” from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, found that most of the house is still basically sound. At least it doesn’t need to be torn down. Also, ownership of the house will apparently be transferred to a new non-profit, the Historic Home Preservation Society, allowing better access to grant money that’s available for restoration projects. So we shall see. If anyone reading this has some extra funds lying around and would like to help the Goodale Inn, I’m sure you can contact the owners through their Facebook page, Save the Goodale. The ghost of a shy little girl would most certainly thank you.
Information and inspiration for this post came from a recent article in the Augusta Chronicle on the positive outcome of the structural survey. More about the collapse of the wall is HERE. As usual, Historic Augusta has some good background, too. If you want to read about the ghost of the little girl, you can go to THIS article in the Chronicle or head to the South Carolina Paranormal Society’s CASE FILE on the Goodale Inn. I got the great old shot above from the Save the Goodale Facebook page where it was uncredited. Try to guess the date (note car at right). It appears to pre-date the period in the 1970's when the Goodale was a "free school" prior to a restaurant being put in the basement. I hear the restaurant served a delicious peanut butter pie on pewter dishes, which brings us all the way back to where we started.
Next time we’ll head into south Augusta to see the historic Dr. Scipio S. Johnson House at 1420 Twiggs St. It ain’t looking good.