by Keri Jones
Augusta, Georgia, the second largest city in the state, is rich in history, having been established in 1736. The Academy of Richmond County was chartered in 1783 and transformed into the Augusta State University known today. The Augusta State University campus was home to the Augusta Arsenal from 1826 to 1955, over a century of United States history, and the site of much history surrounding Augusta’s role in the nation’s wars (“History”). However, many who roam the campus each day know little about that history. The brick pathways around and amongst the Augusta State University campus, known as the History Walk, were constructed in several phases starting in 2002 in order to provide not only a place for travel and leisure activities, but also to inform students, faculty, and Augustans of the history of the campus, thereby the history of Augusta. The walk ties the college’s history together, highlighting important features of the campus.
The idea for the History Walk was conceived by Kathy Hamrick, the Special Coordinator for Academic and Master Planning, while strolling along River Walk in downtown Augusta one day with her husband. The information displayed along River Walk inspired her to similarly exhibit the history of Augusta State University on a pathway that would circle the campus. Dr. Hamrick worked as the Special Coordinator for over ten years and is responsible for initiating construction by writing grants to secure funding and coordinating design (Brewer).
The History Walk was constructed in four phases, the first being completed in the spring of 2003. To pay for construction, Augusta State University received a Transportation Enhancement grant, a state grant, and city and private funds (“Augusta-Richmond” 97). Eventually to become a $2 million project, the Walk was intended to serve an exercising and learning purpose, featuring occasional rest stops and small monuments with historical information about Augusta State University and the two neighboring communities, Summerville and Sand Hills (“Phase I”). The same landscape architect firm that designed Patriot’s Park in Columbia County and downtown River Walk, Davis Design Group, designed the new History Walk’s landscape (“Davis”). According to a plaque found in the brick pathway at the Walton Way-Arsenal Avenue corner, funding for the landscaping was provided by a “generous gift” from Mr. and Mrs. J. B. Fuqua (“Landscaping”).
Included in the first two phases was the restoration of the 1866 Guardhouse, once the entrance to the arsenal. Completed in 2003, the restored building now anchors the beginning of the History Walk at the corner of Walton Way and Katherine Street and serves as an on-campus museum so that it could aid the History Walk with its purpose. The restoration process included rebuilding a replacement porch identical to the original based on photographs and foundation remnants, as well as stripping paint off the brick and resealing it (“Phase I”). Posted on a plaque outside the Guardhouse, the funding was provided by “a grant from the State of Georgia and a gift from Mr. and Mrs. Clayton Pierce Boardman, Jr., in honor of their son-in-law, Maxcy Paul Brown, Jr., a long time employee of Augusta State University” (Arsenal Guardhouse). Further funding for Phase II included another Transportation Economic Assistance grant and state grant, at this point totaling over $1.4 million. Phase III involved extending a portion of the walkway behind the Maxwell Performing Arts Theater, paid for by leftover funds from another project (“Augusta-Richmond” 97). The final phase went under way in 2008, funded with another Transportation Enhancement grant in addition to funds that had previously been set aside, to extend the Walk from the Arsenal Quadrangle to the Science Hall toward Katherine Street (“History Walk Receives”).
The pathway currently forms a 1.1-mile loop around and through campus and is used by walkers, runners, and bikers on a daily basis, occasionally with their dogs as well. From the Guardhouse, the Walk runs parallel with Walton Way to the cemeteries, back to the Maxwell Performing Arts Theater, through the Arsenal Quadrangle, and to the Teardrop Plaza. It then passes Bellevue Hall and the Science Hall, continues toward Katherine Street, along the Summerville neighborhood, and back to the Guardhouse. Throughout this journey, the ten foot wide brick walkway features various artifacts and structures representative of the area’s history, brick and wrought iron walls along the roads, rest areas, and informative pyramidal monuments, all surrounded by beautiful scenery (fig. 1).
The Arsenal Guardhouse guarded the entrance to the Augusta Arsenal after its erection in 1866 (“Museum”). Part of the History Walk construction included the building’s renovation to the original condition and transformation into a historic museum, which opened in 2004. The museum displays dozens of artifacts, photographs, and other various items that were uncovered by archaeological excavations in the area, open for students and visitors to tour and learn about the history (“History Walk”). The museum also features two mannequins dressed as federal officers playing checkers in the old jail cell, representing military life at the time (“Museum”). Outside the Guardhouse stands a Confederate cannon (fig. 2) that was given to the Semple’s Alabama Artillery Battery and used in several battles in the Civil War. The university obtained the cannon when the Arsenal closed in 1955 (“The Guns”).
Further along Walton Way, the decorative walkway features a large, inlaid bronze “1905 site plan” of the Augusta Arsenal, pointing out where old buildings used to stand, as well as those that are still on campus, and even the Arsenal Oak (fig. 3).
The bottom right lists the names of the buildings as of 1905, and their current names or whether they were demolished (“1905 Site Plan”). The Arsenal Oak stood in the center of the campus east of the Arsenal and died of disease in 2004, after a long life dating back to the early 1800s. In 2002, the white oak reached 100 feet tall with a 135 foot canopy and a 70-inch diameter trunk, commemorated by leaf-imprinted granite borders and a life-size granite cross section marked with local and national events in history dating back to the tree’s early years (History Walk Granite Monuments). The Arsenal Oak is now Augusta State University’s logo, which can be found in the ground in a few places along the walk and in other pathways on campus.
On the Arsenal Avenue side of campus, the History Walk leads to two cemeteries: the Walker cemetery, in which the Walker family is buried, as well as the first five soldiers that died at the newly located Arsenal; and an old military cemetery that houses the graves of forty-eight soldiers, twelve women, and ten children, along with a few unidentified graves, dating back to 1841 (“Cemeteries”). The old Arsenal walls and the currently named Fanning, Payne, and Rains Halls, all built in the late 1820s, formed the Arsenal Quadrangle through which the History Walk explores (fig. 4).
The Walk through the Quadrangle highlights a sundial, which is a replica of the original and is prominently featured in the center. Commandant Daniel W. Flagler constructed the original after the Civil War, which was donated to Fort Gordon shortly after the Arsenal closed in 1955 (History Walk Granite Monuments). The Quadrangle is also home to another Civil War cannon identical to the one outside the Guardhouse, accompanied by the same informative plaque.
East of the Quadrangle, in front of Payne Hall, the former Arsenal headquarters, stands a third cannon, another “12-pounder Napoleon” used in the Civil War along with the other two (“The Guns”). Situated further east in front of Payne Hall resides the Teardrop Plaza (fig. 5), featuring the recreation of the old Teardrop from its original bricks; many students used to congregate between classes at this teardrop-shaped platform until it was torn down when asbestos-filled buildings built in the 1940s were demolished in 2004 (Gelpi, “Walkway”).
As a facility for walkers, runners, and bikers, the History Walk encompasses several rest areas with green benches set under the shade of large trees (fig. 6). Most of the benches display a plaque, usually dedicated to a family member or to someone who donated money or service to the school. Gorgeous trees, such as crepe myrtles, magnolias, spruces, and oaks, provide beautiful scenery to give prominence to the noble campus. Accompanying the artifacts, buildings, and rest stops are small granite pyramids on top of brick pedestals, engraved with historical facts (fig. 7). In the pathway outside the Guardhouse coming from Walton Way lies a granite slab on which a statement by former ASU President William A. Bloodworth, Jr. explains that the monuments serve to “commemorate the notable history of Augusta State University and its campus, the former Augusta Arsenal and its historic neighborhoods Sand Hills and Summerville” (Bloodworth). The presence of the same pyramidal markers throughout the Walk functions to integrate the different aspects of the campus and surrounding neighborhoods from the 1800s to the 2000s. Enlightening people of the momentous background of the Arsenal and the University, the pyramids detail events such as the Mexican, Korean, Civil, and World Wars, in addition to the transformations of the college from Academy of Richmond County to Augusta College to Augusta State University.
To celebrate the creation of the History Walk and the purpose it would serve, Augusta State held a ceremonious groundbreaking on August 13, 2002, at the annual fall convocation that welcomes faculty and staff at the beginning of each school year. President Bloodworth, Kathy Hamrick, and James Lester, the tenth Congressional District representative on the Georgia Department of Transportation board who helped receive the TEA grants, participated in the breaking of the ground (“History Walk Groundbreaking”). The completion of the final phase in October 2011 was commemorated with a ribbon-cutting ceremony originally planned to take place on the Teardrop Plaza. Unfortunately, the event was moved indoors in the Maxwell Performing Arts Theater due to inclement weather (“Ribbon”; “Photo Review”).
Although the growth of the college has made the area look more like a campus than the military arsenal that used to thrive there, the campus has become a place that Augustans can “take pride in and appreciate” (Gelpi, “President”). The History Walk reminds people of the past, honoring the legendary arsenal and the notable university, combining the two aspects into a cohesive whole. Former President Bloodworth’s statement on the granite slab states, “the Walk connects the University of today with the historic individuals and events of the past.” The efforts of Kathy Hamrick and James Lester and the financial aid from the Department of Transportation and generous contributors made the goals of the History Walk possible.
“1905 Site Plan U.S. Arsenal.” Augusta State University, Augusta, Georgia: History Walk, 2002. Plaque.
Arsenal Guardhouse. “Augusta Arsenal Guardhouse.” Augusta State University, Augusta, Georgia: Arsenal Guardhouse, 2003. Plaque.
“Augusta-Richmond County Comprehensive Plan Update Community Assessment.” Georgia Department of Community Affairs. Georgia Department of Community Affairs. n.d. Web. 23 Sept. 2012.
Bloodworth, William A. “History Walk.” Augusta State University, Augusta, Georgia: History Walk, April 2003. Plaque.
Brewer, Ashlee. “Faculty Profile – Kathy Hamrick.” ASU Report. Augusta State University. Dec. 2007. Web. 19 Sept. 2012.
“Cemeteries.” Augusta State University. Web. 21 Sept. 2012.
“Davis Design Group – A Landscape Architecture Firm.” Davis Design Group. Web. 19 Sept. 2012.
Gelpi, Greg. “President of ASU is ‘Taken’ by its Campus.” The Augusta Chronicle. Morris Communications, LLC., 3 Apr. 2007. Web. 23 Sept. 2012.
– – -. “Walkway Work to Re-Create Teardrop.” The Augusta Chronicle. Morris Communications, LLC., 30 May 2009. Web. 22 Sept. 2012.
“The Guns of Semple’s Battery.” Augusta State University, Augusta, Georgia: History Walk. Plaque.
“History.” Augusta State University. Web. 21 Sept. 2012.
“History Walk.” Augusta State University. Web. 21 Sept. 2012.
History Walk Granite Monuments. Augusta State University, Augusta, Georgia: History Walk. Monument.
“History Walk Groundbreaking Highlights Fall Convocation.” ASU Report. Augusta State University. Aug. 2002. Web. 23 Sept. 2012.
“History Walk Receives Third Grant.” ASU Report. Augusta State University. Jan. 2008. Web. 20 Sept. 2012.
“Landscaping.” Augusta State University, Augusta, Georgia: History Walk, 2003. Plaque.
“Museum Tells of Augusta’s Past.” The Augusta Chronicle. Morris Communications, LLC., 31 Mar. 2004. Web. 21 Sept. 2012.
“Phase I of History Walk Nears Completion.” ASU Report. Augusta State University. Feb. 2003. Web. 19 Sept. 2012.
“Photo Review.” ASU Reports Weekly. Augusta State University. 1 Nov. 2011. Web. 23 Sept. 2012.
“Ribbon Cutting Ceremony.” ASU Reports Weekly. Augusta State University. 1 Oct. 2011. Web. 23 Sept. 2012.