'Augusta's First Skyscraper' to be preserved

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The vacant Marion Building, once hailed as "Augusta's First Skyscraper," has new owners who hope to preserve the Broad Street landmark for redevelopment.

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  John Curry/ Staff
John Curry/ Staff

"The plan is to have it properly mothballed until such time it can be used again," said Clay Boardman, one of the new owners. "But it will be protected."

The 10-story, limestone and stucco-faced building opened in 1914 as The Chronicle Building, the headquarters of The Augusta Chronicle.

It was gutted during the 1916 fire and became the Marion Building in 1921 after its acquisition by Jacob Phinizy.

Its purchase by Marion Partners LLC represents an equal ownership between Boardman and Barry Storey, a managing partner with Hull Storey Gibson Cos. LLC.

The previous owners, Bettis Rainsford and Bryan Haltermann, acquired the building 19 years ago and were interested in selling.

"They wanted to get out, and I wasn't really looking to get in, but it was available, and I think it was a pretty good deal," Boardman said.

The purchase price, according to Richmond County property records, was $200,000.

Current stabilization efforts include replacing the roof, restoring windows and gutting portions of the interior, he said. "We want to create a nice, dry shell."

Contractors received permission from the Augusta Historic Preservation Commission in March for limited demolition that included removal of a former restaurant behind the building, said Erick Montgomery, the executive director of Historic Augusta Inc.

Boardman said there are no definite plans for the building.

"We don't want to create any expectations that something will happen anytime soon," he said. "We're probably looking about five years out, and we will have to see what is in demand at that point.

"Right now, we don't know."

Possibilities include retail fronting on Broad Street, with offices on the lower floors and apartments or condominiums in the upper stories, he said, noting that the previous owners had drawn up plans long ago to convert the building to housing.

Challenges to redevelopment include a lack of parking and the need for major upgrades in the building's elevators and other primary systems.

The history of the Marion Building

THE BUILDING

The Marion Building was designed early in the career of G. Lloyd Preacher, who went on to become one of the South's most influential architects.

Upon its opening, the 10-story building was hailed as "Augusta's First Skyscraper." It was faced with limestone up to the first three stories, and then buff press brick to the eighth. The top two stories were faced with ornamental terra cotta.

Preacher described the building in a statement Dec. 13, 1914, highlighting in particular its modern conveniences.

"The heating system is the best that can be had with a vacuum vapor circulating system. There's enough radiation to overheat the building in zero weather, if desired. All floors are provided with vacuum cleaning outlets so that the offices may be perfectly cleaned without dust. Sufficient electric lighting is provided throughout, and every office has a lavatory and an abundance of hot and cold water," Preacher said.

Erick Montgomery, the executive director of Historic Augusta Inc., explains that the original plan for the block didn't quite pan out.

"When it was originally built, it was just half of what they eventually planned to build," he said. "The plan was to build a second half identical to the first part. If you look at the east side, it is very plain -- it wasn't intended to stay that way."

THE ARCHITECT

Preacher's notable buildings include Atlanta's ornate, art-deco city hall.

Other Augusta buildings he was involved in include:

- Imperial Theatre

- The firehouse on Broad Street, now known as the Marbury Center

Statement of G. Lloyd Preacher, Architect, upon opening of "Augusta's First Skyscraper," Dec. 13, 1914:

"The Chronicle Building, now ready for occupancy, stands facing the south on Broad Street in a class by itself, distinctive and Individual. The building stands ten stories high and possesses all modern conveniences and equipment. It is faced on front with limestone to third floor level, then buff press brick to the eighth story. The two top stories are faced with ornamental polychrome terra cotta in harmonious colors and the entire exterior of the building is trimmed in terra cotta---such as window sills, lintels, etc. All interior floors and partitions are fireproof and the elevator doors, windows on down-town side, etc., are also absolutely fireproof. The first floor lobby Is decorated with a high marble wainscoting and plaster cornices. The offices and corridors on the upper floors have smooth inish plaster walls. The corridors all .have tile floors and wainscotings of Georgia marble. Ample toilets are provided and they are finished in tile. The trim throughout is genuine oak with veneer doors. The heating system is the best that can be had with a vacuum vapor circulating system. There enough radiation to overheat-the building in zero weather if desired. All floors are provided with vacuum cleaning outlets so that the offices may be perfectly cleaned without dust. Sufficient electric lighting is provided throughout, and every office has a lavatory and an abundance of hot and cold water. There are also two fast elevators, perfectly equipped with Indicators, insuring fast service."

More on G. Lloyd Preacher, famed Southern architect:

http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/nge/Article.jsp?id=h-1072

Comments (13) Add comment
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sjgraci
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sjgraci 05/12/10 - 02:50 am
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Wow 200 grand! Wonder how

Wow 200 grand! Wonder how much it will cost to mothball it? Restore it? Good news and hopefully this becomes a mixed use retail and residential building to go along with the new mixed use baseball stadium and Tee Center Downtown! Build it Downtown!

johnston.cliff
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johnston.cliff 05/12/10 - 05:57 am
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I agree sjgraci. This is the

I agree sjgraci. This is the type of "mixed use" we need ... no section 8 housing.

speeding
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speeding 05/12/10 - 07:57 am
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How much in public funds will

How much in public funds will go to this dog?

floridasun
279
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floridasun 05/12/10 - 08:03 am
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This is good news indeeed.

This is good news indeeed. Thank you Mr Boardman and Mr Storey for investing in downtown Augusta.
Downtown Augusta is truly one of the treasures of the CSRA

jb1234
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jb1234 05/12/10 - 08:22 am
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Wow! 200 grand for a 10

Wow! 200 grand for a 10 story building, it's good to see that it's going to be preserved.

story1
791
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story1 05/12/10 - 09:24 am
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G. Lloyd Preacher was also

G. Lloyd Preacher was also the architect for Augusta's Modjeska Theatre and the Lenox Theatre. Unfortunately, the Lenox was demolished in the '70s.

countyman
19155
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countyman 05/12/10 - 11:19 am
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Broad street and downtown

Broad street and downtown keeps getting better...

countyman
19155
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countyman 05/12/10 - 12:18 pm
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This is another boost to the

This is another boost to the millions being invested downtown... Augusta is finally starting to grow up..

speeding
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speeding 05/12/10 - 06:24 pm
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Austin you're fixing to find

Austin you're fixing to find out why the paper and tv news didn't investigate Calvin Walker's scams. Watch this one for your answer. 50/50

Brad Owens
4102
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Brad Owens 05/12/10 - 06:34 pm
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Yes countryman, mothballing a

Yes countryman, mothballing a building for at least "five years out" is GREAT boost huh?

Now if we could just get Bonnie Ruben to do the same with the Penny's Building (AKA Public Urinal) we would REALLY be sailing on that block.

Brad

augustadog
86
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augustadog 05/12/10 - 08:14 pm
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Great news Downtown Augusta

Great news Downtown Augusta IS WORTH SAVING ...
Thanks guys.

Emerydan
10
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Emerydan 05/12/10 - 10:08 pm
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Talk about a bargain! So

Talk about a bargain! So what's the plan? Sounds to me the building will just sit vacant indefinately.. but good to here it will atleast be preserved. But why can't we start getting it occupied a lot sooner. A mothballed building does nothing to boost downtown.

corgimom
28063
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corgimom 05/13/10 - 12:58 am
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Brad Owens, I loved your

Brad Owens, I loved your comments about the old J C Penney's store.

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