Originally created 03/31/04

Museum tells of Augusta's past



History buffs with a taste for Augusta's past will enjoy the newly opened Augusta State University Guard House Museum.

Dating to 1866, the structure originally guarded the main entrance to the old Augusta Arsenal. A lengthy restoration last year returned the building to its original appearance, and it now includes several exhibits.

The museum has been open for a few weeks, but archaeologist professor Chris Murphy is worried no one knows.

"I think people driving by think it's going to be closed forever," he said. "We want the public to be able to come and look at this stuff. This is a neat reminder of the past."

The small brick building sits at the edge of campus at Katherine Street and Walton Way, part of the History Walk. It's hard to miss after last week's addition of a Civil War-era cannon outside.

Inside, the old jail cell includes the original door, complete with bars. University officials have dressed two mannequins as federal officers and have them playing checkers in the cell while off duty.

"We actually know this was used as a cell room for people who had been neglectful of duty or return late from leave," Dr. Murphy said.

Elsewhere, photo displays tell the history of the Augusta Arsenal, the transformation of the Summerville neighborhood and the development of the college campus. A smaller room displays dozens of artifacts discovered on campus by ASU's archaeology staff such as glass bottles, bullet casings and household items.

Augusta resident J.B. Duncan Jr., 83, visited the museum Tuesday for the first time. During World War II, he was stationed at the Augusta Arsenal, which is now the college campus. As a child, his parents frequently drove by the guard house.

"I used to ride by with my parents and see the GI standing guard. I was just a kid," he said after leaving the museum. "It's beautiful. I like it very much."

Reach Greg Rickabaugh at (706) 828-3851 or greg.rickabaugh@augustachronicle.com.