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  • Writer's pictureHistoric Columbus

Columbus (1952): Operation Housing

Today's Spotlight is centered on the housing growth Columbus was seeing between 1940 and 1952 as showcased in the 1952 Industrial Index. 10,000 housing units were developed between those years in the city limits alone (the 1949 city limits were bounded by what is now Manchester Expressway to the north and Rigdon Road on the east). What was happening in the county was just as significant. Thank you all so much for your continued interest in these spotlights. Remember, if you have any ideas - I'm always grateful for them. Historic preservation only flourishes because of your passion for the history of this town, its stories, and its people. If you have any questions or concerns, never hesitate to contact the HCF Office – 706-322-0756 or Thank you for all you do for preservation in Columbus! Source: The articles and images are from the 1952 Industrial Index. We are highlighting several of local historian W.C. Woodall's Industrial Indexes over the course of this summer. If you aren't familiar with them, they are a wonderful collection of articles on local happenings, business advertisements, and images of new homes put together each year from 1912 until 1960. There are also issues dedicated to Phenix City and Fort Benning. You can find them in the Genealogy Room of the Columbus Public Library and the CSU Archives.


In the first History Spotlight of this month, we highlighted an article that was in the Atlanta Journal Constitution and reprinted in the 1952 Industrial Index. It talked about how Columbus was An Industrial Giant. A part of the article talked about the population growth we had experienced and as a result the need for more housing. “Like any growing city, Columbus has housing problems. Since 1945, more than 7,000 new dwelling units have been built but houses are still needed. The Chamber of Commerce, with the help of newspapers, realtors, and contractors, recently launched an “operation housing” to emphasize that need, to encourage both new building and remodeling old homes into multiple units. A city-wide check showed that 2,917 units are either underway or definitely planned.” “Operation Housing” would impact many neighborhoods, such as the original city and some of Wynnton. It has taken the original city 70 years to return to mostly single-family homes. This spotlight will cover some general numbers that show the growth happening, as well as specific housing developments that were happening and highlighted by the 1952 Industrial Index.

Columbus gained 10,000 dwellings from 1940 until 1952. The city had 14,318 residential units in 1940. By 1950, it had increased to 22,860. For the next two years, new construction in Columbus and the suburbs increased 1,940 to total the 10,000 dwelling unit gain. Building permits in Columbus and Muscogee County, for the first nine months of 1952, totaled $11,844,767. Of this $4,815,825 was in the city, while permits for county areas beyond the city limits aggregates $7,028,942. For the city construction, $2,990,796 was classified as new construction and $1,825,029 was classified as repairs and additions. $588,010 of the total city permits was shown for single-family homes. There were also many other housing permits for milt-family houses, duplexes, and garage apartments. In 1951, all types of housing construction outside the city limits totaled $5,153,025.

From 1950 until 1952, the Columbus Housing Authority built three housing developments totaling $6,000,000. The three included Luther C. Wilson Homes, Elizabeth F. Canty Homes, and Louis T. Chase Homes. The Wilson and Chase Homes were built for white citizens and the Elizabeth F. Canty Homes was built for African Americans citizens. (The Wilson Homes is located adjacent to the intersection of Veterans Parkway and River Road. Chase Homes was recently demolished and is being rebuilt in its same location – north of City Mills on Second Avenue. The Canty Homes are located on Cusseta Road.) The Wilson Homes consists of 63 buildings, one of which is an administrative building. 53 of the apartment buildings are two-story and nine are one-story. The project comprises 300 units varying in size from one bedroom to five bedrooms. They were constructed of brick with plaster walls, concrete floors, and pitched roofs with asbestos tile shingles. E. Oren Smith and Lorin D. Raines were the local architects for the project and Williams Construction Co. was listed as the major local contractor. The project was named for the late Luther C. Wilson who was prominent in Columbus public life over a long period, having served as a member of the City Commission and mayor of Columbus. Much municipal improvement and development took place during the period when he was one of the five city commissioners, and he was deeply interested in city progress, to which he made a thoroughly worthwhile contribution. Mr. Wilson was veteran, and popular railroad man.

The Louis T. Chase Homes consist of 17 buildings, of which 16 are two-story, the other being a one-story structure. In this project are 108 units, consisting of one-to-four-bedroom units. These were also constructed of brick, with plaster walls, concrete floors, and pitched roofs with asbestos tile shingles. J.N. Pease & Co. were the architects. Louis T. Chase was a humanitarian whose long and unselfish labors earned for him in his lifetime, and today in memory, the warm admiration and love of the people of his home community. His life was largely lived for others and expressed itself in innumerable beautiful, unselfish, and helpful deeds. It is fitting that this housing project, located in a section of the city where so often the goodness of his heart found practical expression, should bear his name. (Louis was also a part of the Chase Conservatory for music that was started by his father in the late 1890s.)

Elizabeth F. Canty Homes was developed for African Americans. It was built with 32 apartment buildings totaling 150 units and one administration building. 24 of the buildings are two-story. The units range in size from one to five bedrooms. They are also constructed of brick, with plaster walls, concrete floors, and pitched roofs with asbestos tile shingles. Lorin D. Raines and Wilbur D. Talley were the architects. Elizabeth F. Canty was submitted as the unanimous choice of the advisory committee consulted by the Housing Authority officials. E.E. Farley, chairman of the advisory committee said, “It is felt by the colored people that she possibly touched and influenced for good the lives of more Negro youth in this city than any other colored citizen. Her personality, character, and influence will live through the years in the lives of those who were fortunate enough to have come in contact with her.” Elizabeth F. Canty was a native of Fort Mitchell, Alabama. She taught in Columbus' segregated African American schools for more than 50 years. Educated at Tuskegee Institute, she was one of the first graduates of that institution. She retired as a teacher a few years before her death in 1948.

The Dixie Gold Jersey Farm was located on Rigdon Road off of Macon Road and just outside the city limits. The 126-acre farm was owned by Mr. and Mrs. John Rigdon and sold in 1952 to G. Gunby Jordan II. Mr. Jordan purchased the tract for approximately $255,000 to develop 300 homes. The $4,000,000 project took about three years to complete. From the article: “Jordan said that work on laying out streets and installing utilities will begin immediately but actual construction of residences will not start until February (1953). City water and gas facilities will be installed. He said that this will be the first time that such a project has been planned for this area. The homes will sell for between $15,000 and $16,000. The homes will be architecturally designed with variations in materials, window stylings, roofing, and the like, he said.” The homes were also advertised to be air-conditioned. “The use of air conditioning eliminates most of the need for porches,” Jordan said. There were also plans for a commercial center with a grocery store, drug store, and other commercial establishments.

1956 Columbus Map. CSU Archives. The outer blue line shows the 1956 city limits. Just inside lined in brown is the 1949 city limits.

“One of the largest residential developments in recent years is Steam Mill Heights. This is a W.G. Salter project and ranks as one of the most interesting of development enterprises he has launched since he began operating in the local realty field. Steam Mill Heights is a 200-acre tract lying between the Steam Mill and St. Mary’s roads. It is one mile from the city limits, out the St. Mary’s Road, and has water, sewers, and electric service, in fact enjoys all city conveniences with the exception of gas, which will be provided in due season under the constantly expanding service program of the Gas Light Company of Columbus. This subdivision consists of 600 lots, of which 100 already have been sold. Lots are 80 x 150 feet. Thirty or more houses have been built and sold. The new residences are of brick veneer construction and embody all modern home features and facilities. Prices are from $10,000 to $12,000 with a few homes in the $15,000 range.”

Four other developments touted in the Index included Clifton Woods (east Columbus), Lumpkin Terrace (south Columbus), Carter Acres (south Columbus), and Cascade Hills (north Columbus). Clifton Woods was a new residential subdivision project of Cliff J. Anderson, Jr. off of Macon Road and west of Forrest Road. There were 28 lots with brick veneer homes constructed ranging in value from $14,000 to $17,000. Hugh McMath Construction Co. had the contract to install the utilities. Carter Builders, Inc., owned by Walton Carter, Jr., developed a vast home-building enterprise west of Victory Drive on Lumpkin Road called Lumpkin Terrace. Work began in 1950 on the 74-acre tract with 250 homes built. The development was also placed in the vicinity of the new South Columbus elementary school. A majority of the homes are of brick construction with a small percentage of asbestos-siding construction. Walton Carter completed Lumpkin Terrace in 1951 and then began on a new 185-acre subdivision close by named Carter Acres. 700 homes were to be built over the course of three years from 1952 to 1955. Cascade Hills was developed on the last piece of forest land in the immediate vicinity of Columbus. It embraces the large area of woodland lying between 45th Street and the city water works, and from River Road west to the Chattahoochee River. The development consisted of 200 acres. Salter Construction Co. and Cascade Hills, Inc. purchased the property from W. T. Heard and family, who some time previously, had acquired it from the R.E. Martin estate. The new subdivision would add 500 residential lots with homes ranging from $8,500 to $11,000.

Columbus’ growth from 1930 until 1950 was remarkable from an increasing population, doubling its square mileage, industry and utility expansion, and housing explosion. These latest housing developments are also just a snapshot into that growth. Next Week: We will highlight what was happening in Phenix City in their issue of the 1952 Industrial Index. Thank you all again for your continued interest in these emails and for your support of preservation! See you next week!

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