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  • Writer's pictureHistoric Columbus

Northern Liberties:  Waverly Terrace, City View/Jordan City, The Royal Theater, & Peabody Apartments

Talbotton – Warm Springs Road has served as a thoroughfare in and out of the city throughout our city's history.  It has provided a transportation route to and from the city for suburban residents and travelers since the early to mid-nineteenth century.  The road begins north of the original limits of the town plan in an area that was referred to as Northern Liberties.  Columbus industry grew rapidly in the years following the Civil War.  More mills were built, and existing mills expanded their operations.  By the 1880s, Columbus was called the “Lowell of the South.”  River trade continued to be strong during the latter decades of the nineteenth century, primarily due to federally funded improvements.  While the first rail line had reached Columbus in 1853, the 1870s and 1880s saw tremendous development in railroad construction that allowed Columbus industries to further grow.

Steamer Rebecca Everingham, built in Columbus in 1880

The city limits expanded for the first time in 1889 to include the developing residential areas of Rose Hill and Northern Liberties to the north of the city.  Columbus’ first suburbs developed in these areas to the north and the east of the city – these would also include Wynnton, Wildwood, Linwood, Beallwood, and East Highlands.   The availability of electricity also spawned more industrial development, and the city would continue to grow during the early-twentieth-century.  By 1915, Muscogee was again one of the leading textile counties in the South.  This growth expanded the need for residential development, and the northern and eastern suburbs continued to grow.

On the north side of Talbotton Road, Rose Hill was the first to develop during the antebellum era with the construction of large estates.  During the late-nineteenth century, these estates were subdivided into smaller building lots, and the residential suburb of Rose Hill began to develop.

As you moved further east, two neighborhoods would be developed by G. Gunby Jordan in 1906 - Waverly Terrace and City View.  Waverly Terrace was a planned development subdivided from a large parcel of land known as Waverly Farm. Jordan also donated a parcel of land within Waverly Terrace for the location of the Secondary Industrial School, completed in 1906.  This school is nationally significant as the nation's first public-supported, co-educational industrial high school and was established to serve the children of mill workers in Columbus.  

City View was also laid out by the Jordan Company, but as an incorporated village for the Perkins Hosiery Mill.  The mill and village were constructed in 1906 by G. Gunby Jordan, president of the Jordan Company, and C.L. Perkins. The 1907 Sanborn Map (below) shows the mill and houses across 12th Avenue from the mill.

The village also included a school to serve the village children (no longer standing).  The houses in the mill village are wood-framed and include New South cottage, front-gabled bungalow, saddlebag, double shotgun, and pyramidal cottage house types as well as several duplexes.  City View was also planned and developed by the Jordan Company simultaneously as its next-door neighbor, Waverly Terrace.

The 1927 Industrial Index describes the Perkins Mill as “one of Columbus’ most important industries,” making cotton hosiery and a combination of silk and cotton hosiery.  The village was almost entirely developed by 1937, and soon afterward, its incorporation was liquidated, and it merged into the Columbus city limits.  Perkins Hosiery Mill became Jordan Mills in 1937.  The area surrounding the intersection of Talbotton Road and 12th Avenue then became known as Jordan City.  The Jordan Mill manufactured quality cotton yarns for several decades before it ceased operations in the late twentieth century.  In 2005, the mill burned down.

Talbotton Road was first listed in the City Directory in 1888.  By 1907, the Sanborn Maps would show several stores beginning to concentrate at the Talbotton Avenue and 12th Street intersection across from the newly constructed Perkins Mill.  The 1920s saw a fair bit of commercial growth.  The area would also see one of the largest entertainment venues in Columbus.

Down the road from the Perkins Mill and closer to Rose Hill, The Royal Theater was located at Talbotton Road and Comer Avenue.  The large theater was built in 1927 by Roy Martin as a fireproof building of brick, tile, and concrete construction.  It was designed by T. Firth Lockwood and constructed by contractor E.P. Hastings.  The Royal Theater was one of several constructed in Columbus by Martin.  It was located in the rapidly growing suburban area of Rose Hill, where Martin himself lived with his family.  When constructed for $150,000, the theater was the largest in Columbus and one of the largest in the South with twice the seating capacity of other theaters.

There was also an adjoining store building that was part of Lockwood’s original design and was built to accommodate a business on the first floor and apartments on the second floor.  The 1929 Sanborn Map shows a pharmacy located in the store.  The city’s first radio station, WRBL, began broadcasting from this building in 1928. The theater was built to showcase large road shows, vaudeville theater productions, and motion pictures.  The Illges family donated the theater to the city of Columbus in 1964.  The Three Arts Theater League renovated the theater and made alterations.  It was home to the Columbus Three Arts Theater and the Columbus Symphony for many years until it was demolished in 2003.

Across from The Royal Theater, at the edge of Rose Hill and Waverly Terrace, was a small residential area, much of which was considered blighted at the time.  In 1938, the area became one of Columbus' first public housing complexes, the George Foster Peabody Apartments.  The 510-unit-complex was built for white residents and covered 23.54 acres and cost $1.87 Million to build.  The image to the left was from a 1942 Ledger-Enquirer article about the Peabody Homes gardens.  It features a military family that lived in Peabody and joined other families there in growing their own food. 

Over the next several decades, Peabody Apartments would become in great need of revitalization.  In 2002, through a $20 million HOPE VI Revitalization Grant, the Housing Authority replaced Peabody with Ashley Station, a mixed-income community. Ashley Station consists of 367 units comprised of 146 public housing units, 74 low-income housing tax credit units, and 147 market rate units. The HOPE VI program also included the construction of 39 homes for purchase by qualified low-income families. The total cost of this development was in excess of $54 million.  

The next two parts of this series will include more on the commercial, industrial, railroad, and residential development of this corridor.  Today, it is difficult to envision the vibrancy of Northern Liberties, however, we hope this series will give you a glimpse. 

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