Group lists historic sites that need saving

Five aging buildings, including a former funeral home and a downtown car dealership, were identified Tuesday as some of Augusta's most endangered historic properties.


The list, produced by Historic Augusta Inc., is an annual project designed to focus attention on important structures or groups of buildings that could be lost to neglect, demolition, inappropriate alterations, vandalism or poor public policy decisions, said W. Tennent Houston, the organization's president.

"We consider our historic neighborhoods and buildings to be Augusta's competitive edge," he said. "Every time a building is saved, Augusta is made richer. Every time a building is lost, all of Augusta becomes poorer."

This year's list, the fourth the group has issued, also includes private family cemeteries, including the Coleman Leigh Warren Cemetery and Cottage Cemetery off Marvin Griffin Road, said Erick Montgomery, Historic Augusta's executive director.

Also listed is the Jacob Phinizy House, built in 1882 and used from 1938 until recent years as a funeral home. Inside, its elaborate ironwork and ceiling mural of cherubs are among many unusual features that warrant the building's preservation and restoration, Mr. Montgomery said.

Also listed is the Pontiac Master Auto Service Building, one of the relatively few surviving structures from the nation's early car dealerships.

"We believe this funky building has architectural value and merit -- and should be saved," Mr. Montgomery said.

Also on the list are the Immaculate Conception Academy campus on Laney-Walker Boulevard, Hallock Cottage on Hickman Road and the Lyons-Callaghan House on James Brown Boulevard.

Historic Augusta can help property owners with advice on grants, tax incentives and other forms of assistance to protect and restore historic properties, said Paul King, the chairman of the organization's endangered historic properties committee.

The list was revealed during a news conference at the Martha Lester School on Broad Street, which was on a previous endangered property list. It has since been acquired by Clay Boardman and his company, Augusta Capital.

Reach Rob Pavey at (706) 868-1222 or

Jacob Phinizy House (former Poteet Funeral Home)

Address: 529 Greene St.

Owner: Privately owned and for sale

History and significance: This stately Second Empire style residence was built in 1882 by Jacob Phinizy (1857-1924), a wealthy and influential cotton broker, insurance agent and president of the Georgia Railroad Bank from 1897 until his death in 1924. In 1940 the house was sold to Henry Grealish and Henry W. Poteet, who had moved their funeral home from next door the previous year. There are abundant original interior details, including elaborate fireplaces, massive pocket doors, Tiffany chandeliers and tile floors. The original carriage house is located behind the main house and the more modern addition of a 3,600-square-foot chapel occupies the lot to the corner of Monument Street. This property is a fine example of the impressive architecture that lined Greene Street in the 19th century, with elegant residences, stately churches and the 1820 Richmond County Courthouse built along the length of the beautiful street with landscaped medians.

Threat: Vacant and neglected

Potential uses: Single-family home, offices, event center

Immaculate Conception Academy campus

Address: 1016 Laney-Walker Blvd.

Owner: Catholic Diocese of Savannah

History and Significance: The Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception and its Academy were built and dedicated in 1913 by the African Missionary Fathers of the Catholic Church. Located on the corner of Gwinnett Street (now Laney-Walker Boulevard) and 11th Street, the original two buildings of red brick consisted of the church and its parochial school. Taught by the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, whose convent and boarding school were a block away on 12th Street, the school attracted African American students of all faiths. The handsome yet utilitarian buildings are solidly constructed and could easily be used for other purposes. The church was closed in the 1970s, at the same time Sacred Heart was closed by the diocese. Both churches were consolidated with St. Patrick's Parish to form the Church of the Most Holy Trinity on Telfair Street. The diocese decided to move the school to Holy Trinity's Parish Hall, also on Telfair Street, this fall.

Threat: School relocated, vacant, potential for demolition

Potential uses: School, community center, offices

Private family cemeteries

Locations: Throughout the area

Owners: Various

History and significance: Historic cemeteries are a significant part of Georgia's history and are often neglected. Many families set aside a burial ground on their farm or plantation and near their home site. But over the years with changing economics and demographics, Americans have left the farm and consequently the family cemetery. Even if someone in the family takes responsibility for a time, eventually that person dies, and no one is left who is aware or interested in the ancestral graveyard. Within a very short time, cemeteries get overgrown with vegetation and often become gathering places for loiterers. Unspeakable vandalism often occurs to the weathered and beautiful stones that mark the graves. With increased development around Augusta and urbanization, the abandonment and destruction of private family cemeteries is the reason for their listing as a class on Historic Augusta's 2010 endangered properties. These final resting places deserve respect and protection in perpetuity.

Threat: Neglect, vandalism, unknown locations, area redevelopment

Preservation tools: The Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Historic Preservation Division has excellent information and facts regarding cemetery preservation. Georgia HPD has partnered with the Georgia Department of Economic Development to offer a new, one-time grant program for historic cemeteries, the purpose being to assist local communities in promoting their historic cemeteries through heritage tourism. Cemeteries may be eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places if the criteria is met and then the cemeteries would be eligible for all programs of the National Register, including grant funds.

Pontiac Master Auto Service Building

Address: 1027 Telfair St.

Owner: Privately owned

History and significance: The Augusta Downtown Historic District is significant in the area of transportation, including several automotive dealerships and service centers that were built in early to mid-20th century. 1027 Telfair St. was built 1949-50 and is a fitting example of such architectural design. With the rise of the automobile, Augusta's streets were paved and widened and the previously nominated Fifth Street Bridge was completed, creating a major entry into downtown from South Carolina. The building type devised by automobile dealers is best represented by the large plate glass windows that allowed customers to view the showroom from the sidewalks and as they drove by. The west end of Telfair had several automotive dealerships and service buildings such as the Pontiac Master Auto Service Building, which featured the curved glass corner along the street. Threatened by development pressures along Telfair Street, the loss of this building would result in a void of a distinct period of Augusta's commercial history.

Threat: Vulnerable to development plans in the surrounding blocks

Potential uses: Auto shop, offices, restaurant, retail

Hallock Cottage

Address: 1303 Hickman Road

Owner: Privately owned

History and significance: Built in 1897 by Elijah Allen Hallock (1871-1900), a civil engineer from Moriches, Long Island, N.Y., who came to Augusta because he was suffering from tuberculosis. The one-story Queen Anne cottage was located in the Monte Sano addition to the Village of Summerville at the southwest corner of Richmond Avenue and Hickman Road. Hickman was originally called Telfair Street before Summerville was annexed into the City of Augusta in 1912, necessitating the name change to avoid confusion with the downtown street of the same name. The Summerville Historic District is noted for the graceful and stylish mansions that line the streets near Walton Way and Milledge Road, but the Monte Sano section was where stylish but middle-class residents built their homes after the streetcar line was electrified in 1890. The Hallock Cottage was owned by a succession of local Augustans, including August F. Hilleke, who managed Augusta's gas works; Hollis C. Boardman, manager of the Standard Oil Co. in Augusta; Annabel Craig Eve; Marion G. Ridgely; and several others. In recent years it has been rented as apartments.

Threat: Vacant, neglected

Potential uses: Single family residence

Lyons-Callaghan house

Address: 808-804 James Brown Blvd.

Owner: Privately owned

History and significance: 802-804 James Brown Blvd. (formerly Ninth Street and even earlier called Campbell Street) is a modest two-story house that sits prominently on the southeast corner of Walton Way and James Brown Boulevard. Built circa 1870 by Irish immigrants William and Mary Lyons, it was income-producing property almost from the beginning. After William's death in 1876, Mary Lyons lived next door on what was originally called Gardiner Street, later Calhoun, and now is part of Walton Way. She rented the house for use as a grocery store and a saloon, as did the subsequent owner, William Callaghan, another Irish immigrant who lived a block farther south on Ninth Street. It eventually became a beauty salon catering to African-Americans and a boarding house. This is one of the rare remaining houses built in the area known in the mid-19th century as "Dublin" because it was settled largely by Irish immigrants, many of whom worked for the railroad. The Laney-Walker Historic District is significant for both architecture and history, notably the development as a self-contained African-American community in the 20th century. The construction of the new judicial center directly across the street from this house and the subsequent commercial investment in the surrounding area threatens either demolition or rehabilitation that may not be preservation-sensitive to the integrity and character of the building.

Threat: Vacant, neglect, strong development pressure

Potential Uses: Professional offices, restaurant