"I'm going to hope it can be restored, but that process lies with the current owner," said Erick Montgomery, the executive director of Historic Augusta Inc., which has worked behind the scenes in efforts to preserve the building.
The three-story home had a major structural failure in which the chimney on the west wall closest to the road collapsed, taking a good portion of the wall with it, Montgomery said.
"I didn't go inside, obviously, but it could be that the rest is relatively stable," he said.
Built in 1799 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976 as the Fitzsimmons-Hampton House, the Federal-style, multistory building was purchased in 2009 by Wes Sims, a Birmingham, Ala., investor who -- at the time -- hoped to renovate it.
City officials are trying to contact him, Montgomery said.
The long-vacant house was used as a restaurant in the 1970s and early 1980s and was for sale and priced in the $250,000 range for several years before ultimately selling to Sims for less than $20,000.
The surrounding area -- now flanked by Bobby Jones Expressway and mammoth chemical factories across Sand Bar Ferry Road -- was a 500-acre plantation established by Thomas Goodale in 1740.
Goodale operated the Sand Bar Ferry at the nearby river crossing, in addition to a restaurant and inn, according to early historical accounts.
In 1799, the year the house was built, the site was sold to a Charleston, S.C., merchant named Christopher Fitzsimmons, who later gave the structure to his daughter's new husband, Wade Hampton Jr.
A son, Wade Hampton III, would later become governor of South Carolina.