Celebrate the Rankin House
Updated: May 19, 2020
Let’s celebrate #PreservationMonth with a tribute to The Rankin House! It is Historic Columbus’ headquarters, as well as a great example of partnerships and preservation.
The Rankin House 1440 2nd Avenue
The Rankin House was built for James Rankin, a planter and owner of The Rankin Hotel (10th Street and Broadway), who immigrated to Columbus from Ayrshire in Scotland. Work on this mansion was started prior to the Civil War but was not completed until the war ended. The construction of the house is attributed to Lawrence Wimberly Wall. In an article entitled “People Who Live in Fine Houses” in the Columbus Enquirer Sun newspaper in 1898, the Rankin house was valued at $18,500 and given the highest value of any house in the city.
The house is noted for its exquisite iron grillwork, flying balcony, windowsills of cast iron, wide heart of pine floors, and hand carved cornices and door frames. A structural focal point of the interior is the graceful solid walnut double stairway, which rises from both sides of a spacious center hall to a landing between the first and second floors. In 1968, The Rankin house was donated to Historic Columbus as a memorial to Columbus native James Waldo Woodruff, Sr. by his family. Miss Emily Woodruff was particularly interested in the Junior League of Columbus having a “home” in the Rankin House. The League remained in the house until 2003 when HCF and the League swapped houses. Historic Columbus moved from 700 Broadway to the Rankin House to make it more available to the public and to utilize it more as a meeting space.
Restoration of the house and the furnishing of the museum rooms were accomplished through the cooperation of HCF, the Junior League of Columbus, the Columbus Town Committee of the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Georgia, and many interested individuals. Mr. Edward Warner Neal was the restoration architect. Mrs. Charles Marion Woolfolk was the interior decorator. Mr. and Mrs. Lindsay Neill Bickerstaff purchased the lot behind the house facing Third Avenue and an outbuilding on the property and donated them to Historic Columbus. Mrs. Bickerstaff and subsequently her daughter, Mrs. James Madden Hatcher, Jr., have actively maintained the Rankin House grounds and garden for decades. The Mildred Miller Fort Foundation and the family of Mr. and Mrs. John William Walden, Jr. have also graciously contributed over the years to maintaining this handsome historic house.
The fence enhancing the property formerly surrounded the upper Broadway townhouse of General Henry Lewis Benning, the Confederate war hero for whom Fort Benning is named. The Rankin House courtyard was given in memory of Charlie Frank Williams, a prominent Columbus civic and community leader. The gazebo on the front lawn of the house was given by the family of Mrs. Richard Courts of Atlanta, who was an early benefactor of Historic Columbus. The original Carriage House adjacent to the Rankin House has recently been restored and is now a small office.
The High Uptown Historic District is located on Second and Third Avenues between 14th and 16th Streets. This district has a fine collection of circa 1850-1920 houses. This area was once occupied by many of Columbus’ most influential families. The houses that remain show the finest collection of craftsmanship in the city. The houses on Second Avenue – the Rankin House, the Illges House, the Henry Lindsay Woodruff House, and the Earnest Woodruff House, were donated to HCF by the children of James Waldo Woodruff, Sr. as a memorial to this nationally known benefactor. His children were Ethel Woodruff Draper, James Waldo Woodruff, Jr., Emily Woodruff, and John Barnett Woodruff.
If you are able, please consider joining or making a donation to Historic Columbus. Your contribution will increase heritage education programming in our public schools and preservation projects along the Second Avenue corridor, the original city, City Village, Waverly Terrace, and MidTown Columbus. These are the places where your gift can make a transformational difference in a child’s sense of place and strengthen our neighborhoods one house at a time.