Historic Downtown Augusta (Broad Street)
The Broad Street portion of Historic Augusta's downtown virtual tour. Here you will learn about Augusta's rich history as well as the architecture it entailed.
Born James Bryce White in Ireland in 1847, he ran away to the United States at age 16 to seek fortune in New York City. Having worked as a cash boy in NYC, White met business partners Lucian and Vernon Richards, Augusta's most elite dry goods salesmen, while they were on a buying trip to NY. The young boy made a good enough impression for the brothers to offer him a job in Augusta — assuming their offer was convincing enough for the young boy to accept. At the time, Augusta was a winter resort for wealthy northern businessmen, which meant a high clientele for home and fashion goods. The three partnered in 1874 to form the J.B. White and Company after they purchased the firm of McCabe, Costello, and Daly, located at 730 Broad Street.
The Modjeska Theater originally opened in 1911, making it the oldest existent theater in Augusta GA. A competitor, the Bonita Theater preceded the Modjeska but soon fell out of business. The current building is rendered in the Moorish-Persian architectural style, designed by Architect G.Lloyd Preacher. The theater hosted picture shows and Vaudeville Acts and has been cited as the first theater in the Augusta Area to premier films with sound.
The Woolworth Building, located at the corner of Broad and Seventh Streets was built in 1939 and played an integral role in Downtown Augusta's economic redevelopment during the early to mid 20th century. Rendered in the Art Deco style, the storefront building is plastered in tan brick, includes a second-story tenant space with metal-frame windows, and a geometric parapet wall.
The original building on the site was constructed in 1910 in the Mission style following a 1908 acquisition of land on Broad by the Union Savings Banking Company. An article in the Augusta Chronicle cited the building as "one of the prettiest buildings in the city." The furnishings were all of dark mahogany wood and the chandeliers were "the handsomest that have been seen in the city."
The Rialto Theatre reportedly opened on Wednesday, September 18, 1918, at 2:00 PM with the showing of Douglas Fairbanks' "Bound in Morocco". An Augusta Chronicle Article sited described the theatre as representing "the last word in the way of a moving picture theater." With a seating capacity of 710 people, the theatre opened two months after the Imperial theatre, making it the third operating theater on broad street.
Located at 735 Broad St., this project began construction in 1913 as the Empire Life Insurance Building. Designed in the Sullivanesque architectural style by G. Lloyd Preacher of Augusta and W. L. Stoddard of New York, the building has been cited as one of Augusta'a "first and finest office towers." Although the original plan was to complete construction by the end of 1913, a series of financial struggles and fire damage extended the completion date to early 1916. Unfortunately, the building was gutted later that year for damage sustained in the 1916 Fire. The former Empire Life Insurance Building reopened as the Lamar Building.
The theatre was built in 1917 as the "Wells Theater for Vaudeville Acts" in the Syllivanesque architectural style. The theater closed as a cinema in 1981 but reopened as a community arts theater in 1985. The imperial has hosted notable names such as Charlie Chaplin and James Brown. A replica of the original marquee was applied to the facade in 2006.
The Marion was originally built in 1914 as the Chronicle Office Building located at 737-739 Broad Street. Designed by the architect G.Lloyd Preacher in the Renaissance Revival style, it was considered one of Augusta's earliest multi-storied buildings. Although advertised as fireproof, this building sustained fire damage in 1916 and reopened in 1922 as the Marion Building.
Designed by prominent Georgia architect G. Lloyd Preacher, the 8-story Richmond Hotel was constructed in 1923 on the site of the former Albion Hotel which burned in 1921. The building's design is of the Italian Renaissance Revival style indicated by the rectangular form, entablature, and rhythmic placement of the windows. Construction on the Richmond Hotel was completed in January of 1923 and was renamed the Richmond Summit in 1979.
The Albion Building was constructed in 1900-1901 and designed by Architect Willis F. Denny of Atlanta who also designed the old First Baptist Church located on Greene Street. Augusta businessman, J.B. White, commissioned the architect to design a business complex of five stories and two wings with a construction price of approximately $60,000. A large commercial hotel resided on one end with an equally impressive dry goods department on the opposing end. At the time of its construction, the Albion was described as "a handsome building five stories high and specially arranged to afford ample light and air to every room." The facade was plastered in light cream brick and Georgia Marble.
The Second-Empire style building at what is now 724 Broad St., locally referred to as the Dorr Building is one of the oldest standing buildings on Broad Street with a traceable origin to 1886, with the lot traceable to 1826. Augustus Dorr Commissioned local architect W. E. Speir to design the storefront. Considering the rise in popularity of the Second empire style occurred during the 1852-1870 reign of Napoleon III, the construction of the building years after the style's prominence can most likely be attributed to the delayed time for cultural diffusion to affect the southern United States. The building survived three great fires, two in the years 1899 and one in 1916. It has also experienced three address changes due to a presumable shift in the Broad St. lot numbering system as a result of urban development.
The News Building, formerly known as the Herald, was built in April 1917 by the Evans Brother Construction Company. Following the Great Fire of 1916, which brought the downtown district nearly to ruins, a multi-million dollar redevelopment effort proceeded in the succeeding year. The Italian Renaissance-style building's $115,000 cost of construction was an integral part of the downtown initiative. Eventually, in 1955, the Augusta Chronicle purchased the building, following a merger with the Herald.
The Citizen and Southern Bank of Georgia, established in 1917, selected Augusta as their location due to its thriving economy in agriculture, namely cotton. The original building was located adjacent to the National Bank of Augusta and the Georgia Railroad Bank. The building has experienced two expansions: one in the late '40s to early '50s and a final in the late '60s, both of which contributed to its current six-column facade. Although the Citizens and Southern Bank no longer occupies the building, the company's name can still be seen plastered across the building's architrave.
The original Georgia Railroad Bank building opened on October 11, 1902 at 701 Broad Street, at the intersection of 7th and Broad Street. It was designed in the Renaissance Revival style by architects Mowrbary & Uffinger, whose office hosted a public gala for the completed structure's inspection. In 1969, the banking company relocated across the street to 699 Broad in a 17-story Miesian-style office skyscraper built specifically for the bank. The site of the previously occupied bank was used for the expansion of the Neoclassical style Citizen southern Bank.
Construction began on the Miller Theater in 1938, which was designed to accommodate Augusta's growing population. Frank Miller, the building's owner, commissioned the Jacksonville-based architect, Roy Benjamin, to design the theater. The Miller is rendered in the Art Moderne style, features Italian Marble terrazzo, black walnut millwork, and a performance stage adorned with fluted columns and hand-painted panels. The theater seats approximately 1,550 patrons and was the second-largest theater in Georgia at the time of its construction, which cost approximately $500 thousand.
600 Broad St, constructed in 1977, is a design by the world-renowned architect I.M. Pei. Situated along the central axis of Broad St, this building is the only of its kind and serves as a landmark for the mid to late 70s redevelopment effort downtown. On-axis with the building are parking wells and plazas that span between the 600 and 1000 blocks of Broad Street.
The Executive House Hotel was constructed in 1974-75 under the request of former Georgia Governor, Carl Sanders. The project, upon completion, was regarded as a driving component in the Augusta downtown revitalization due to the convention and meeting space amenities it offered. In 1995, Ramada Worldwide, a chain of Wyndham, purchased the Executive House and renamed it the Ramada Plaza.