• Historic Columbus

Northern Liberties: Rails and Industries (Part Two of Three)

The Southern Railway rail line was the main rail line from Columbus to Atlanta.  The line runs from downtown Columbus in a northeasterly direction.  It began as part of the Georgia Midland and Gulf Railway Company, constructed to provide a route to Atlanta from the Gulf of Mexico.  The railroad was chartered in 1881, and the company was incorporated in 1885.  By 1886, the line had reached McDonough just south of Atlanta.  Due to the 1893 nationwide depression, the railroad went into bankruptcy in 1894.  The line was operated under receivership and sold in 1896 when the company was reorganized as Georgia Midland Railway.  The Southern Railway Company acquired the line in July of 1896.  The Southern Railway Company began operation in 1895 with branches all over the South and with the backing of J.P. Morgan and Company and the First National Bank of New York.

"It was an epic, indeed, when these groups of enterprising and stout-hearted Columbus citizens undertook and carried into successful completion the construction of these two railroads.  Those who took part in these two notable enterprises practically have all passed away, but among the three or four still left is the outstanding personality in these projects, which had such a profound effect on the fortunes and destiny of Columbus.  Reference is made to G. Gunby Jordan to whom Columbus is indebted more than to any other one person for the building of these two railroads and the other transportation benefits that resulted." 1928 Industrial Index article - The Story of the Building of the Georgia Midland & Gulf and Columbus Southern Railroads




The rail line has historically served the industrial, commercial, and residential areas surrounding it.  The industries located at the Talbotton Road – Twelfth Avenue intersection were adjacent to the rail line to take advantage of its transportation services.  In 1907, the Jordan City Station was located at this intersection and served as the place to buy tickets for the railroad. Commercial development along the corridor grew considerably over the years.  The first commercial establishments were stores that served the surrounding neighborhoods.  By 1914, the city directory listed Buck Grocery Company, Jordan City Pharmacy, and Jordan City Baptist Church, which were all close to the Talbotton Road – 12th Avenue – Southern Railway intersection, as well as indicating a reference to this area as Jordan City.  The 1918 and 1921 directories also listed tea, coffee, and cleaning companies, Jordan City Market, and Jordan City Garage.

Archer Mills was located at Talbotton Road and Midland Avenue.  Archer Mills started on Front Avenue as one of three small hosiery-knitting operations which began in Columbus during the 1920s. (The other two failed within a few years.) In 1929, Archer moved to this modern two-story facility designed by Lockwood, Greene, and Company.  It was built to manufacture pure silk hosiery and was one of the most modern hosiery mills in the nation.  The mill’s product was nationally marketed and sold.  This locally-owned company stopped operating in 1971.


According to the 1928 Industrial Index, the silk that Archer Mills used was grown in Japan, shipped by steamer to Seattle, and dispatched east on silk trains.  A trainload of silk was of such enormous value that silk trains lowered the schedule of cross country deluxe passenger trains.  The Archer Hosiery Mill had about 100 people, both male and female, on the payroll in 1928.


Between Archer Mills and the intersection with 12th Avenue on the south side of Talbotton Road were a group of stores, including King’s Self Service Company and the Wofford Oil Filing Station.  The historic gas station was built by Wofford Oil in 1928, and the building first appears in the 1929 Sanborn Map, but without the garage wing.  It was constructed with a residential appearance, typical of early gas station designs. There were 14 Wofford Stations in Columbus by 1928. The building was later sold to the Pure Oil Company in the 1950s.


The Dr. Pepper Bottling Company is located on 12th Avenue just south of Talbotton Road and Wofford Oil.  It is a large brick building constructed in 1938 for the bottling operations of Dr. Pepper.  The Mission Style building was designed and built by Raymond C. Buck, and the business was owned by T. B. Buck (pictured left) and T.B. Buck, Jr. (pictured below).  The manufacturing of soft drinks became an essential industry in Columbus in the 1920s.  Other manufacturers located in Columbus were NEHI and Royal Crown.



The Buck Ice and Coal Company is located on the southeast corner of the Talbotton Road – 12th Avenue intersection.  The large brick building was constructed in two parts.  The rear section was built in 1922 and the front section in 1945 (pictured above).  E. Oren Smith was the architect and engineer for the 1945 addition. 

The company was started in this location in 1922 by Thomas B. Buck. The Buck family has owned a large amount of property in this area for many years.  Previous to opening this business, Mr. Buck lived on Talbotton Road several blocks to the west and operated a grocery store.  The company was probably located here due to the property’s close proximity to the rail line. The company is still in the Buck family.


Next Week:  The last part of the series will highlight the Shannon Hosiery Mill (the first home of Columbus College) and the residential neighborhoods on the north side of Warm Springs Road between the Perkins/Jordan Mill and the five points intersection with 17th Avenue.


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You have traveled with us to Monte Carlo and Singapore, but this year we must stay at home.  While we will not be able to get together for a high roller evening at the tables, we hope you will consider turning your patron package or entry ticket into a donation for Historic Columbus.  You can choose to designate your gift to the Patricia Jackson Howard Scholarship or the Virginia T. Peebles Preservation Grant. As of Wednesday, November 11th, we are almost to the $20,000 goal -

$19,320! When we reach our goal, thanks to you, two years of funding will be provided to both the Howard Scholarship and the Peebles Grant! THANK YOU!!!  


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The Architectural Styles of Our Town: Columbus, GA by Historic Columbus is licensed under A Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Creative Commons License