The Case for Preservation: Lost Columbus
Columbus, like many cities in the United States, lost numerous older structures in the 1940s and 1950s for many reasons, including economic hardships, suburban flight, commercial encroachment, road construction, and Mother Nature. This is only a sample of what would create the impetus for preservation in Columbus and why the Springer Opera House became the line in the sand. But, why preserve? Below is an excerpt from a lecture by John M. Sheftall - Truth, Beauty, and the Preservation of Spirit - made in 2016 during the year-long celebration of Historic Columbus' 50th Anniversary. "Special places built by human hands, inhabited, cherished, and passed down through generations, where our stories can be told and retold, are not only important to the wellbeing of our culture and society, they are in a way sacred – not with a capital “S,” but in the sense that we revere them. Why? Because, they are places of connection which transcend the “obvious and understood” confines of human mortality.
They stood before we were born. We expect them to survive us and stand long after we are gone, or at least we hang onto the hope that they will. When the places survive, there is a much greater chance that the stories about those places will continue to be told and the values which we ascribe to those places will survive them. The stories may be reinterpreted over time, different values may be emphasized, but the conversation will continue and those places will remain to give voice in a very tangible way in the future.
What should we preserve? Truth, Beauty, and the Preservation of Spirit. If the building or place helps us and will help future generations distill truths about our past and ourselves, it should be preserved. If it is beautiful, it should be preserved. And if it contributes to the spirit of this place we call Columbus – other use similar terms such as character or quality of life or sense of place – then we should work to see that it’s preserved.
Economic revitalization may often be the argument we make to the rest of the world, but it’s not the reason we do it. Or at least it shouldn’t be. We work to preserve because we want the world we pass on to contain buildings and places beauty, places where truths can be distilled about our history, and places with great spirit. If this philosophy guides us, consciously and unconsciously in the way we set our goals as preservationists, then I submit that when we preserve it, economic revitalization will come. Perhaps not overnight. But definitely in the long run.
The preservation movement, in all of its manifestations, which arrived in Columbus 50 years ago and incarnate in Janice Biggers and Clason Kyle, who we are so blessed to still have with us, goading us, challenging us, evolving with us – remains I think the best hope for our town.When we fight to save a special place, whether it is a building or a park or a neighborhood, if our purpose remains to create beauty, facilitate truth, and preserve the spirit of this place, and we can do it collectively, then we have a better chance of winning, and our efforts will never be in vain."
This unique home was located on the southwest corner of 2nd Avenue and 14th Street. It was built in the 1880s and was known as The Dragon House for its shingle-sided design that resembled scales. It was demolished in the 1960s and is now a commercial property.
The home at 904 Broadway was constructed about 1838 with addition in the mid-1840s. It was bought in 1867 by John W. Pease and remained in the Pease family until the early 1930s. The raised cottage with double curved iron stairs and beautiful ironwork balconies was turned into apartments and then demolished in 1940. The property then became the site of a skating rink and is now home to the RiverCenter.
This Greek Revival mansion was built in 1830 by Matthew and Sarah Howard Evans, father of the renowned author, Augusta Jane Evans (St. Elmo). The family lived in the home until 1840 when Mr. Evans suffered bankruptcy. The home and 150 acres were later sold back into the Howard family to Colonel Sherwood Connor Lindsay, who then called it "Sherwood Hall." It was later lived in by the widow Ann Lindsay Howard and her twelve children.
Sherwood Hall later became the site where the Georgia Woman Suffrage Association was founded by H. Augusta Howard, the youngest of the children of Ann Lindsay Howard. The home was demolished in the 1940s. The estate was subdivided in the 1930s and the Jordan-Johnson neighborhood was developed.
The second Post Office for Columbus, Georgia was constructed in 1895 across the street on First Avenue from its predecessor. This three story building with rounded arches was one of the earlier mini-high rises in Columbus. The site, adjacent to Trinity Episcopal Church was also the location of the home of Dr. Edwin L. Degraffenried, one of the original planners for the town. The building was later replaced by a new Post Office and Federal Building in 1935 and then demolished in 1950.
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.