Lost Columbus (Pt. 4): Mott House, 9th St. YMCA, Temple Israel, USO, and Upper Broadway Homes
When Norm Easterbrook at the RiverCenter approached us with the opportunity to install an exhibit about our community's history, I jumped at the chance. Since Virginia Peebles and I put together HCF's latest publication This Place Matters in 2016, the stories of these "lost" buildings and so many more have been burning a hole in my computer to be told again.
The twenty-panel exhibit will be placed on the second floor of the RiverCenter lobby at the beginning of April. The next time you are at a show or just visiting Uptown, please take a look. We are very grateful for this new partnership!
Your love for our town is the driving force behind the mission of Historic Columbus. As always, if you have questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact our office by phone 706-322-0756 or email email@example.com. If you aren't already a member, we hope you will consider joining us!
Elizabeth B. Walden
SOURCES: Columbus, Georgia 1828 - 1978 by Dr. John S. Lupold, Columbus on the Chattahoochee by Etta Blanchard Worsley, The Columbus, Georgia Centenary by Nancy Telfair, Columbus Georgia's Fall Line "Trading Town" by Joseph B. Mahan, the Library of Congress Historic American Building Survey, and historic postcards from the collection of Historic Columbus and The Columbus Museum.
Built, c.1840, the Mott House was the last remaining house on the “Golden Row,” a series of large antebellum mansions that faced the Chattahoochee River. Owners James S. Calhoun was a successful businessman and Mayor of Columbus, and Daniel Griffin was president of the Southern Telegraph Line. Randolph Mott acquired the house in 1856, and he and his house became a Columbus legend. In 1865, Mott invited Union General James H. Wilson to make his headquarters in the house after the Battle of Columbus – the last land battle of the Civil War.
After being incorporated into Muscogee Manufacturing Company for many years, the Mott House was saved, and the exterior completely restored to the Department of Natural Resources’ standards in 1998 by TSYS. Its final interior restoration and new addition were almost complete when tragically the house was destroyed by fire on September 10, 2014. In an effort to maintain the history and legacy of the Mott House, TSYS has constructed a memorial site for visitors and citizens to once again enjoy “Mott’s Green.” The portico, cast iron urns, and bricks were saved from the wreckage of the fire and restored to stand where the house was originally located.
The Ninth Street Branch YMCA (903 6th Avenue) had its beginning through the efforts of a small prayer bank group in 1901. The first home was a small frame building. In its infancy, the work was guided by a committee of African American citizens. Among this group were W.E. Clark, S.R. Marshall, S.W. Yarbrough, and Dr. R.H. Cobb. In 1907, George Foster Peabody and his brothers donated $20,000 that resulted in the first constructed and fully equipped Negro YMCA in the country. In 1925, additional improvements were made to the building through funds contributed by the Army and Navy Board of the YMCA and local citizens, led by E.E. Farley. On December 31, 1963, the gymnasium roof collapsed due to the weak condition of the building, snow, and ice. The branch closed its doors and was subsequently demolished. During its existence, it served over 100,000 African American citizens. A new facility was dedicated in 1964 as the Brookhaven Boulevard Branch and renamed in 1978 as the A.J. McClung YMCA. The property is now a part of the Public Safety Building Complex.
In 1885, the Daughters of Israel passed a resolution calling on B’nai Israel to build a proper synagogue for the congregation. In November of 1886, they broke ground on a new synagogue. When the Byzantine-style synagogue was dedicated in September of 1887, the local newspaper called it “one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. It would be an ornament to a city thrice the size of Columbus.” Located at 314 Tenth Street on the southwest corner of Fourth Avenue was this handsome brick building, known as Temple B’nai Israel. The postcard image is dated 1912. The Temple remained in use at this location until 1958. The building was then demolished, and the congregation moved to a new location at 1617 Wildwood Avenue. The property was then used as the site of several restaurants.
The construction of the first Colored Army and Navy YMCA/USO, located at 841 5th Avenue, was brought about by the pressing demands of the great number of African American soldiers, then stationed and yet to come to Ft. Benning. E.E. Farley, who served as executive secretary of a non-equipment Army and Navy “Y” at Ft. Benning, saw the need and championed the effort. It was the generosity of a wealthy local African American businesswoman, Elizabeth M. Lunsford, solely financing the building for $15,000 that brought this endeavor to fruition. It contained offices, canteens, a library, social rooms, and adequate facilities for dances, games, educational programming, and recreational activities sorely needed by the more than 5,000 colored soldiers of the 24th Infantry. In 1941, the two-story building was dedicated. Participating that day were publisher Maynard Ashworth, members of the Columbus Defense Services, H.J. Sims, Secretary of the Army and Navy YMCA; Dr. Benjamin E. Mays, President of Morehouse College; Elizabeth M. Lunsford, Dr. Thomas Brewer, Walter Richards, Rev. W.A. Reid, Pastor of Shady Grove Baptist Church; Lt. Col. Frank Lockhart, Commanding Officer; Dr. R.K. Paschal, Pastor of Friendship Baptist Church; and the 24th Infantry Band.
By 1889, there were still dwellings listed in the upper blocks of Broadway as evident in this image of the 1200 block of Broadway from the 1889 Sanborn Map. Some of the former homes were already turning into Boarding Houses at this time, but the majority would stay single family homes until the turn of the century when more commercial businesses began developing in those blocks. Some, as you will see in the 1400 block of Broadway would transition to become apartments, then commercial development, and finally, a corporate campus. These next four images represent a sample of the homes located on Upper Broadway.
Originally one of the homes that was a part of “The Golden Row” and located at 1217 Broadway, this beautiful house was constructed in the mid-1800s. By 1904, the home was altered from a residence to become a men’s club, The Muscogee Club (pictured above), and operated as one until the 1940s. By 1942, the Standard Club was listed at this address and in 1963, the Chickasaw Club. It was demolished by the late 1960s.
The c. 1850 home was located north of the Muscogee Club on Broadway. It was converted into a small hotel and boarding house about 1904 by Dr. Charles Estes and family. By 1942, the Estes House (pictured above) was demolished and replaced with the Rothschild Furniture Company in a new building.
The east side 1400 block of Broadway was the site of the home of G. Gunby Jordan (pictured above). Across the street was located the Carnegie Library and Muscogee Mills. To the north of the house was General Henry Benning’s family home. In the 1920s, J. H. Dimon and the National Showcase Company built an apartment building (Dimon Court Apartments) at a cost of $125,000 with local architects Hickman and Martin designing it. The apartments replaced the Jordan and Benning homes. They were demolished in the 1970s for the city bus transfer station. Now, the site is a part of the TSYS campus.
Next Week: We will finish the series Lost Columbus! We will highlight some of the original residential structures in the Liberty District on Fifth Avenue, the Muscogee County courthouses, and the evolution of the RiverCenter block.