Current Research

Martin Fountain – Lower Greene St., Augusta, Ga., postcard, Raphael Tuck & Sons, 1907

 

My newest book project, which got underway in August 2017, examines Georgia’s Fall Line cities of Augusta, Macon, and Columbus from Reconstruction to the present. The Fall Line, the natural slope that separates the Piedmont from the Coastal Plain, furnished water power for industry and marked the head of navigation on the Savannah, Ocmulgee, and Chattahoochee Rivers. Until the late 19th century, any of the cities that grew along the Fall Line in Georgia and in the Carolinas seemed capable of overtaking older seaport cities such as Savannah and Charleston, but the rapid rise of upland cities such as Atlanta, Nashville, and Birmingham in the late 19th and early 20th centuries sidelined the Fall Line cities.

This comparative study explores how these cities competed with each other as they strove to be more than small urban hubs for processing agricultural products and the degree to which they emulated Atlanta’s forward-looking growth agenda and Savannah’s efforts to harness history and culture. It examines the impact of textile mills, railroads, tourist and convention facilities, as well as the military-industrial complex. The study also traces responses to central-city decline and decades-long efforts to create metropolitan government in the wake of annexation failures. Throughout, the imprint of race will be clear. All three cities had large African American populations throughout their history, and all of them ranked among the most heavily redlined cities in the nation.

My initial work focuses on the confluence of city beautification, historic preservation, and downtown revitalization campaigns in Augusta, Georgia over the past century, a topic that will eventually be placed in comparison with similar developments in Macon and Columbus. Thus far, I have made two research trips to Augusta to collect extensive primary materials and am mining the online archives of the Augusta Chronicle.

I will present a paper titled “Making ‘The Garden City of the South’: The Transformation of City Planning in Augusta, Georgia,” at the Urban History Association 2018 conference in Columbia, South Carolina, in October.