Way We Were: Local government finds a new home in 1957

When looking at the past, we always seem surprised to find they didn’t think like us.

 

There are many examples, but I found another last week — the Augusta-Richmond County Municipal Building.

Debated for decades and finally built in the mid-1950s, the so-called “Marble Palace” went up in the front lawn of the 1820 City Hall/courthouse it replaced.

That old Greene Street building was dangerously deteriorating and stories about its plummeting plaster and falling floors had filled The Chronicle’s news pages for years. So had stories about differences between the city, led by the mayor and City Council, and the County Commission when it came to building a new facility.

For example, Commissioner Herbert Elliott, who liked to be thought of as the “father of the Municipal Building”, wanted to make it 17 stories with a jail on top.

Finally, however, they agreed, the new structure went up, and it was dedicated with a high school band and civic speeches on a cold afternoon in December 1957.

Now, here is what I don’t understand.

The official opening of this gleaming new structure was covered by this newspaper on page 6B in a 12-inch story that neither merited a byline nor suggested a construction cost.

That day’s front page had several stories you or I might have kicked off to make room for it.

That inside story reported about 200 people showed up for the 50-minute program and Judge Frederick Kennedy spoke, calling the event “a most significant ceremony in the history of Richmond County and the city of Augusta.”

He called the building a “dream come true — a testimonial to the vision and faith of the people of this city and county.”

Also speaking was R.H. Thompson, of VFW Post 3200, who The Chronicle said spoke for 30 minutes, urging Augustans to continue such examples of progress.

The Richmond Academy band played the national anthem as the American flag was raised, and then played Dixie, as the Georgia flag went up.

The latter produced the only reported applause of the afternoon.

Following the dedication, spectators “quickly moved into the warmth of the building to began an inspection of the structure,” The Chronicle tells us.

It apparently passed muster.

 

More