College president enjoys historic downtown

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When friends visit Augusta, Terry Elam serves as a tour guide, showing off what sets his city apart from others -- its historic downtown.

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Augusta Technical College president Terry Elam stands in front of the Old Government House in downtown. He said Augusta's history is sometimes overlooked.  Annette M. Drowlette/Staff
Annette M. Drowlette/Staff
Augusta Technical College president Terry Elam stands in front of the Old Government House in downtown. He said Augusta's history is sometimes overlooked.

Many cities can boast new developments in their suburbs, but few have a downtown as rich in history as Augusta, Mr. Elam, president of Augusta Technical College, said.

While much of the city's downtown perished in the fire of 1916, historic sites on and around Telfair Street survived, he said. Many visitors, however, don't realize the history captured in many of these buildings.

Erick Montgomery, executive director of Historic Augusta Inc., said winds and floating embers spread the fire, which devastated block of downtown. Some areas, though, were spared.

The Old Government House on Telfair, for instance, is one, which holds particular memories for Mr. Elam. It was there that he worked as a caterer when he was in his 20s, and it was there that he met Prince Andrew, Duke of York, in 2004.

Only a couple of doors down from the Old Government House, however, is the home owned by Amanda America Dickson, a structure with particular significance, he said.

Although difficult to prove, Ms. Dickson was considered the wealthiest black woman in the nation in the 19th century, Mr. Montgomery said. She was the daughter of both a plantation owner and a slave, but he called it an anomaly that her father accepted her and her mother into his house.

When her father died, she won a court case that upheld his will passing on his assets to her, Mr. Montgomery said.

Augusta is as historic as Savannah, Ga., and Charleston, S.C., Mr. Elam said. Often, the city's visitors are familiar with the historic spots along Broad and Reynolds streets, but other sites get overlooked.

It would just take someone with initiative and a van to begin giving official tours throughout downtown, he said.

"We've got all of these wonderful historic sites, but we've got no ribbon that connects them," he said.

As someone involved in economic development, Mr. Elam takes a particular interest in the way Augusta's downtown has evolved.

Growing up here, he walked the streets of downtown when retail stores dominated the area, he said. That has since given way to businesses and now new developments.

Mr. Elam said it makes him proud seeing the buildings being redeveloped and reused.

Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or greg.gelpi@augustachronicle.com.



YOUR FAVORITE

Do you have a favorite local place? Why not share it: bill.kirby@augustachronicle.com


YOUR AUGUSTA

"Among the wonderful places to visit are the Enterprise Mill including a tour of the canal, the Augusta History Museum and the Boyhood Home of Woodrow Wilson. These should not be missed."

-- Marilyn Smith

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jackfruitpaper833
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jackfruitpaper833 04/08/08 - 07:57 am
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I hope one of his tour guide

I hope one of his tour guide stops downtown is at the Laney Museum, there's a lot of rich history housed there as well.

freedombelle
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freedombelle 04/08/08 - 08:30 am
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FINALLY, someone is being

FINALLY, someone is being positive about Augusta...Thanks Mr. Elam. ONE of my favorite places was/is The Botanical GARDENS..it is one of the most peaceful places to go and spend time walking, looking at the pretty shrubs & flowers and listening to the birds. I'll NEVER understand why it was closed for so long and left unkept. It is truely a nice place. Let's NOT let that happen again, come on people, go downtown and look at the positive side of Augusta. (oh yes, and that piece of artwork across the street is NOT awful, it is at least interesting.)

belapris55
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belapris55 04/08/08 - 08:52 am
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what about morehouse college

what about morehouse college founding grounds, spring field baptist church,pilgrims insurance,building, laney,ar johnson ,the penny bank, lenox theater, ct walker, tabernacle, willie mays, dent's funeral home ,mays , funeral home the dent brothers sucess in thj 50, 60, 70, elam you grew up in the augusta area and did not mention any black historical aers com on mr. pres were is your black history iq you forgot i know thanks mister president of atc................thanks i did not i guess you an tiger are not interested hah,,,,,,,,

belapris55
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belapris55 04/08/08 - 08:52 am
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what about morehouse college

what about morehouse college founding grounds, spring field baptist church,pilgrims insurance,building, laney,ar johnson ,the penny bank, lenox theater, ct walker, tabernacle, willie mays, dent's funeral home ,mays , funeral home the dent brothers sucess in thj 50, 60, 70, elam you grew up in the augusta area and did not mention any black historical aers com on mr. pres were is your black history iq you forgot i know thanks mister president of atc................thanks i did not i guess you an tiger are not interested hah,,,,,,,,

MissNea1908
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MissNea1908 04/08/08 - 11:12 am
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I agree with you belpriss55.

I agree with you belpriss55. Augusta does have more to offer than just the Botanical Gardens. Augusta always fail to recognize the rich African American history that has helped develop Augusta. WAKE UP EVERYONE THERE IS MORE TO OFFER OTHER THAN A GARDEN!!!

MtnMan
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MtnMan 04/08/08 - 06:17 pm
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What a laugh! Let's face it

What a laugh! Let's face it folks, the only people who would even know where Augusts is are the golfers.
Augusta was, is and will always be nothing more than a sleepy steamy backwater town in Georgia!
I wouldn't waste my vistor's time by dragging them through "downtown" Augusta. What's there? Nothing more than a bunch of run down buildings that have been vacant for decades, or turned into tattoo parlors and strip joints.

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