COLUMBUS HISTORY EXHIBITS
In partnership with RiverCenter for the Performing Arts, Historic Columbus has had the pleasure of producing three history exhibits. The mission of these exhibits is to share a comprehensive timeline and detailed stories of specific moments in our community's history. Our first exhibit, Lost Columbus, opened in April 2022, the second exhibit, Celebrate Columbus, opened in February 2023, and our third exhibit, Industrial Columbus, is currently on display through March 2024. You can view Industrial Columbus on the second floor of the RiverCenter at 900 Broadway in Uptown Columbus and Celebrate Columbus on the second floor of the Iron Works, Columbus Convention and Trade Center. In November 2023, Lost Columbus will be back on display at the Columbus Public Library on Macon Road!
We are also pleased to announce a fourth exhibit in the works. Stay tuned for more details! These exhibits are made possible thanks to grants from the Columbus Cultural Arts Alliance. We thank them for their generosity.
Historic Columbus is honored to share this collection of history exhibits with the community in a digital format. Explore this page to see all three exhibits in their entirety!
Textile production had its roots planted in Georgia soon after the American Revolution, when Eli Whitney, in collaboration with Catharine Green, invented the cotton gin in Chatham County in 1793. The cotton gin transformed cotton into a marketable commodity and became a familiar feature across the cotton fields of Georgia in the 19th century.
The manufacturing of cotton began in the northern states in 1790 when Slater Mill started spinning cotton into yarn in Rhode Island. The industry spread throughout the New England states over the next several decades. In 1814, Boston investors opened the first planned textile mill in Lowell, Massachusetts, which introduced the power loom. Now, factories can process raw cotton into cloth in one factory. The creation of mill towns, with housing for workers, became popular in the north and spread into southern communities as well.
Georgians began to invest in building textile mills in the 1810s. These were small, water-powered cotton factories established along the fall line, a strip of land across the piedmont from Columbus to Augusta where rapids provided sufficient waterpower to operate the mills.
The Georgia Legislature established Columbus in 1828 specifically as a “trading town” at the head of navigation of the Chattahoochee River. Crossing the Fall Line at Columbus, the river drops 125 feet within 2 1/2 miles and produces a potential energy of at least 66,000 horsepower. This hydropower attracted entrepreneurs, investment capital, and laborers to Columbus.
OUR TOWN'S CULTURAL ARTS HISTORY
AN EXHIBIT BY HISTORIC COLUMBUS
Celebrate Columbus was created in partnership with RiverCenter to honor our town’s cultural arts history, theaters, and local arts icons. It started as an eight-week series of History Spotlights on Historic Columbus’ Blog, and we encourage you to visit for even more great arts information about Columbus.
Before there was even a town, theater troupes were coming through the area. Columbus would have six theaters by 1870 – with three being active at one time. Each of Columbus’ theaters, from the earliest log structure to Temperance Hall, had been an acoustical, technical, and scenic improvement over its predecessor. Then, there was the Springer, the Liberty, the Royal, and so many more.
The arts have been woven into the fabric of Columbus. It is our intent for this exhibit to move you through the timeline of our history and provide a glimpse into the development of the arts within our community. Columbus has also been very fortunate to have been the birthplace of such iconic talents as Blind Tom, Ma Rainey, Darby and Tarlton, Nunnally Johnson, Carson McCullers, and Alma Thomas.
Celebrate with us these stories, these legacies, and the history of our town, Columbus.
We invite you to view this exhibit in person on the second floor of the Iron Works, Columbus Convention & Trade Center, through March 2024.
AN EXHIBIT BY HISTORIC COLUMBUS
These buildings stood before many of us were born. Their stories may be reinterpreted over time, different values may be emphasized, but continuing the conversation about them and their significance to our town is important. These places, even though gone, give voice in a very tangible way to our past and a voice for our future.
There are important stories within these images that are not lost because the structures themselves are no longer standing. Without them, we are not as beautiful, as real, and as strong of a community as we can be.
Columbus, like many cities in the United States, lost numerous older structures in the 1940s and 1950s for many reasons, including economic hardships, suburban flight, commercial encroachment, road construction, and Mother Nature. This exhibit is only a sample of what would create the impetus for the preservation
movement in Columbus over fifty years ago.
Despite what we might obscure or overlook at times, historic places tell us the truth about ourselves. And how we elevate, protect, interpret, and activate those stories and places can offer ways to explore the truths of who we are, collectively and individually, and ways to demonstrate our respect for each other’s strengths,
achievements, and legacies.
Celebrate these stories with us and the history of our town, Columbus.
Please enjoy reading about these places and exploring the interactive map below. We invite you to view this exhibit, in its entirety, in person at the Columbus Public Library from November 2023 - March 2024.