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Six Weeks of Wynnton: Wynnton Village

Week 6:  Wynnton Village

The Wynnton Village Historic District is the largest of the six Wynnton National Register districts.  It is composed of a series of subdivisions that were previously antebellum estates.   Wynnton Road became an important factor in determining street and lot layout - the driveway to The Cedars (Cedar Avenue) would also become an important axis.  18th Avenue follows an original north-south lot line between the two antebellum estates of John Banks and John Woolfolk. Beginning in the 1910s and 1920s, land was subdivided for a medium-density residential area.  Because Wynnton Road was desirable, the antebellum estates were further subdivided as land passed from one generation to another.  As a result, real estate developers began platting smaller subdivisions rather than one overall neighborhood.  There are 13 subdivisions in total that comprise the district.

John Banks (1797-1870), a prominent lawyer originally from Elbert County, Georgia.  In 1825, he served as aide-de-camp to General Lafayette and accompanied him from Milledgeville to the Chattahoochee River.  Banks would later return to Muscogee County with his wife Sarah and their 12 children  He purchased 265 acres and built their home, The Cedars, in 1836.  The house was constructed of handmade deep rose-colored bricks covered with stucco marked off in large rectangles to resemble blocks of stone. This Greek Revival house has strong Gothic influences. The c.1840 Gothic Revival-style Cottage was built to accommodate guests and the older boys in the family.    While the estate was not a working plantation, the property did have slaves who worked as house servants.  On a daily basis, Banks rode into Columbus to pursue his diverse business interests in law, banking, commerce, and manufacturing.  He became one of the more prominent lawyers in the region and served as president of the Howard Factory, a cotton mill, located on the river in downtown Columbus.   At one time, two rows of cedar trees lined the drive leading to the house, now Cedar Avenue.  John Banks began selling his land almost immediately after he purchased it.  Between 1836 and 1859, Banks sold ten tracts on Wynnton Road.  He also granted land to Wynnton Academy.  The Cedars has remained in the Banks family continuously since 1836, and the current owners’ children are the eighth generation to live in the house. John and Lucy Sheftall have been exceptional stewards of this National Register property.

John Banks' neighbor and owner of a 100 acre lot was John Woolfolk (1781-1861), a Virginia native who was raised in Augusta, Georgia.  Woolfolk moved to Muscogee County and quickly became a prominent citizen, being elected to the state legislature in 1832.  He would build his home in 1834.  Cuban born Enrico Lopez is given credit for building the house, as well as the Wynn House and Gordonido. The architecture and the floor plan is typical Greek Revival.   By 1860, Woolfolk owned 180 slaves and nearly all of them worked on his land by the Chattahoochee River.  Woolfolk's Wynnton property was not a working farm, however, he did sell one thing at his estate - water.  In 1847, he signed an agreement with Sutton and Alfred Iverson to allow them to distribute water from a spring on his property.  They were allowed to sell water to Columbusites for 30 years in exchange for monthly rent and two hydrants on the property.

After the death of John Woolfolk in 1861, the property was frequently transferred by inheritance and purchase. The house was used as an upscale apartment community during the mid-twentieth century. Through various owners, it fell in quite a state of disrepair until Historic Columbus purchased it in early 2000, and it was restored to a single-family residence by a sympathetic owner.

The Wynnton Academy was established in 1837 for the children of Wynnton landowners. The building was built in 1843.  Originally, six acres were set aside for the male academy and four acres for the female academy.  The girl's school, however, would later become the site of John Flournoy's home, Hillcrest. By the end of the 19th century, the Wynnton Academy had both male and female students.  Now in the center of the Wynnton Arts Academy complex, the original school is a museum and art gallery.  It is the oldest school building in continuous use in the State of Georgia.

In 1860, the US census ranked Wynnton as the 15th largest town in Georgia with a population of 1,497 (633 whites, 13 free blacks, and 851 slaves). The census taker created larger boundaries for Wynnton than most would have recognized - he extended it to Rose Hill.  Wynnton had become more than just a collection of estates, it was a village with a diverse population, its own institutions, and its own community.  Middle-class white families also lived there.  Five free black families - Fords, Ennises, Williams, and two sets of Joneses - along with three other free blacks - Maurier Adams, Jim Webb, and Mary Clark - lived in Wynnton in 1860. 

Change came with the arrival of the streetcar in 1890 and new commuters to Wynnton.  The automobile in the 1920s would bring even more people to the area.  The process of creating new subdivisions and platting the land began in the district in 1893 and continued until about 1930.  Economic forces would also fuel suburban development.  The general prosperity of the 1920s expanded the size of the middle class.  Columbus' economy diversified with new industries such as Tom's Peanuts and Nehi soda.  The establishment of Ft. Benning as a permanent post was also an important factor in continuing growth in Columbus. By the 1920s, Wynnton was booming.  Wynnton started as and remained a more prestigious neighborhood than Rose Hill and Waverly Terrace, probably because of its antebellum reputation and success of its promoters.  Additionally, in 1925 the city limits of Columbus were expanded to include Wynnton, ending a controversy that raged since the 1890s over whether to include the area. 

Popular architectural styles represented in the district include Colonial Revival, Craftsman, and English Vernacular Revival.  Many of the homes were designed by well-known architects, James J.W. Biggers, F. Roy Duncan, Charles F. Hickman, Thomas Firth Lockwood, Jr., and John C. Martin, Jr.  Also significant for the district are its historic apartment buildings; two historic gas stations; and the 1957 modern style Temple Israel. 

The 1957 synagogue was designed in the International style by architect Sigmund Braverman (1894-1960) of the architectural firm Braverman & Halperin of Cleveland, Ohio.  During his career, Braverman designed more than 40 synagogues in the United States and Canada, as well as apartments, theatres, shopping centers, schools, and hospitals.  Temple Israel is an excellent example of the International style with its flat roof, intersecting planes, asymmetrical façade, and expanses of windowless walls. 

The 13 subdivisions in the Wynnton Village Historic District include: Little Wynnton Survery (1893) developed by Judge William Little Randolph Terrace (1907) by Charles D. Woodruff and W.E. Curry Wynnton Place (1906) by Muscogee Real Estate Company Wynnton Heights (1910) by Hezekiah Land east side of Cedar Avenue (1915) by Lloyd Bowers west side of Cedar Avenue (1921) by Peacock and Dimon family members Chambers (15th Street) and Forest Avenue (early 1920s) by various individuals Wooten Place or Forest Court (1923) by a Wooten family member J. M. Baird (1924 & 1937) by Baird Owsley Park (1925) by Park Place Realty Edgewood Heights by M.L. and A.B. Wade Boulevard Terrace by Hezekiah Land Delauney land east of Wildwood Ave. (1930) by Mrs. Andrew Prather & Mrs. Cliff Johnson

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