Originally created 05/12/02

Historic Augusta home should be preserved, not abandoned



Thank you for your "Not so fast" editorial of May 4.

As a native of Augusta, I am saddened at the prospect of yet another atrocity to befall the city's architectural heritage.

The former district attorney's offices at 551 Greene, the 1873 DeLaigle House, should be spared the fate of so many other classic buildings of our city.

Growing up in Augusta, I was proud to say that the home of my ancestors was beautifully maintained as the law offices of William R. Coleman Esq. This lovely Italianate residence, where the victim of the last duel fought in Georgia was brought to die, looked out for decades at the graceful old courthouse building surrounded by huge old oaks and the great obelisk of the Signers Monument.

Then, after the old Courthouse was torn down, its buff pale blue stucco exterior softened the cold sharp angles of the 1950's "Marble Palace" across the street and reminded us what this leafy area of Greene Street must have looked like in days gone by.

Unfortunately, since 1992, when the old DeLaigle House passed into the hands of the district attorney's office, passers-by were forced to watch as the building faded into shabby disrepair. The mayor's suggestion to "tear it down and make it a parking lot" is not only premature, it is shocking.

Such short-sighted, backwards thinking is what has turned a beautiful historic district into a patchwork of parking lots and cheap, newer construction with the occasional architectural gem left in between, crying out for repairs.

Two contributions by the DeLaigle family to the historic fabric of Augusta have already been wiped out. The Nicholas DeLaigle house further down Greene Street, arguably the greatest example of Greek Revival residential architecture in Augusta, was demolished in the 1950s for the construction of Gordon Highway. Also DeLaigle Avenue, located in the eastern section of the city, was obliterated by a housing project in the 1970s.

The Delaigle family gave the land for Magnolia Cemetery to the city in 1819. In the 1940s, Louise DeLaigle Seyd Reese, who grew-up at 551 Greene St., gave funds to construct the Sexton's Lodge at Magnolia Cemetery.

The DeLaigle Brickyards were the first brick manufacturers in the South, and provided Augustans with employment and building materials for generations. A DeLaigle family member was also on the original committee to build the Augusta Canal.

Certainly local leaders can adopt a more imaginative, preservationist attitude regarding what is left of our city's architectural heritage.

Kevin DeLaigle, New York