Current Research

For several decades the Bon Air in Augusta was among the most popular winter resort hotels in the South. (Postcard from personal collection)


My newest book project 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 (uplands) 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 the degree to which these cities competed with each other as they strove to be more than small urban hubs for processing agricultural products, the degree to which they emulated Atlanta’s forward-looking growth agenda and Savannah’s efforts to harness history and culture, the impact of textile mills, railroads, tourist and convention facilities, and military bases, responses to central-city decline, and decades-long efforts to create metropolitan government. My initial work is focusing in two areas. One is the development of Augusta as a winter resort between the 1870s and the 1930s, including its rivalry with Savannah and its Fall Line urban competitors Macon, Columbus, and Columbia, South Carolina, before the Masters golf tournament came to dominate the city’s reputation. The second centers on two centuries of development visions for the three cities’ downtowns and riverfronts.

I plan to submit a proposal for the Urban History Association 2018 conference in Columbia on a portion of this latter research. I would welcome others with an interest in downtown development and redevelopment in smaller cities who might want to form a UHA panel to contact me. My preliminary proposal is viewable here.