Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Hangin' Downtown

I said I wasn't going to write about my comings and goings (and I won't), but sometimes they slow me down a bit. Thus the substantial lag in getting around to a second posting. But things should settle down for a stretch, so hopefully I'll get some things up.

Alright, back to Augusta, GA. It makes some sense to start downtown, where very few people are usually hangin'. Although it is better than TV, as the song goes. Anyhow, this post will concentrate on the handful of streets north of downtown, between the main drag, Broad St., and the mighty Savannah River.

At the turn of the century (the 20th, not the 21st) these streets were filled with dozens of warehouses moving goods (bricks, textiles, etc.) to and from boats on the Savannah River and trains that ran all over the city. Previously, during the Civil War, Augusta had been central to the South's military efforts, supplying more gunpowder and munitions to the Confederate army than any other city. The construction of the Augusta Canal later ensured that the city became a center of industry when it could have been forgotten as the agrarian way of life died a slow and painful death. Following years of tobacco and then cotton cultivation, both crops that strip the soil, farmers were being forced to abandon their land and the city's prospects might have been dim. But the canal provided access to and from the Savannah River, not to mention power, creating just the right environment for textile mills to spring up throughout the city and greasing the wheels of venture capitalism. I'll get into the canal and the mills of nearby Horse Creek Valley later.

There are still plenty of forgotten track segments lying around in bits and pieces in odd locations and if you walk behind the old warehouses near the river you can find shadows of the former grandeur of such commerce.

Some of the old buildings along the tracks don't have much left of them. The building above has a reasonably intact front that looks out on Broad St., yet if you step behind it not much remains. Other buildings are simply boarded up and abandoned. Whether these remnants survive for long remains to be seen. A few blocks away from Broad St., across Reynolds St., is the Riverwalk, a well-maintained brick walk along the river's levee that gets a fair amount of recreational use. So far, after a number of years, this rare example of civic utility in Augusta hasn't had any effect on the surrounding streets. In fact, recently Fort Discovery, a science museum along the Riverwalk, has been threatened with crippling budget cuts, indicating that these old brick relics just might be around awhile longer.

As I said, there's only a couple of streets between Broad St. and the river, a mixture of these old warehouses, office buildings (not interesting), and gaudy modern hotels (who cares?). Next time I'll cross Broad to the south and things will really get moving. The wasteland that is Ellis St., the abandoned school on Telfair St., the last Arte Moderne movie theater in GA (empty for 20 years), the infamous James Brown Blvd and more all await. Until then, happy wanderings.


Unknown said...

Downtown Augusta is still a good reminder of days gone by, and it still shows in small parts along the river pics gave me a tingle or two. I can recall hiding in the close racks at SKY CITY as a child.

Stuart McIntyre N.Augusta S.C.

Kasha Carpenter said...

apparently minds meet in the middle. Looking through your photos of augusta and I have several of the almost exact same shots in my past...thank you for reawakening me