Georgia Postcard Collection: Downtown Scenes
Written by our friends at the Athens Heritage Room
Our second look at the Georgia postcard collection takes in three different scenes in downtown Athens. Each shows changes that have taken place, but to varying degrees. The first, looking eastward from the intersection of Clayton and Lumpkin streets, gives us a glimpse into an era of downtown’s history starkly different from our own: before the opening of Georgia Square Mall and before oak and ginkgo trees were planted along Clayton. Though the afternoon shadows and the quality of the image make reading the signs difficult, those fortunate enough to have lived in Athens during the 1970s may recognize some of the businesses seen here.
The next postcard shows what may be a familiar scene to those who love Athens history: College Avenue between Clayton and Broad streets, decades before College Square was created. Though the artist here did not include a streetcar in the illustration, the rails on which the electric trolleys ran are visible. The first streetcars in Athens were actually pulled by mules, starting in 1885 at the latest. Electric streetcars appeared in 1891 and remained until 1930. You can learn a great deal about these streetcars from a history written by David Winter Ray, available via the University of Georgia Libraries.
One can also glimpse in this illustration, in the block between Clayton and Washington streets, the building that housed the original Palace Theatre. This building was north of the building currently occupied by Wuxtry Records. It was replaced by a larger modernist structure in 1970. After the theatre closed, sadly the building went too, replaced by a parking garage. You can find more images and information about the Palace at a Facebook group that has been created for it. Not many places that have been closed since 1987 have a Facebook page…
The final postcard for today depicts the First Christian Church that sits at the corner of Pulaski and Prince/Dougherty. At the right-side edge of the postcard, a building east of the church is visible. This building does not currently exist. Based on a timeline found at the church’s website, the building could have been the parsonage constructed in 1926 and demolished in 1973 to allow for a parking lot (that sounds familiar!) but the same history also notes that the original church building, located across the street at what is now Athens Blueprint and Copy Shop, was sold and moved when the current building was completed in 1915. The transplanted old church was also located east of the new church, and apparently survived until 1971, when it was demolished to make way for Denney Tower. Given that this postcard is another illustration, we do not know if artistic license is at work here. Could the artist have depicted the old church, or for that matter one of the houses that once graced Dougherty Street but were torn down during the era of Urban Renewal?
If you have details to add about the topics discussed here or any of the buildings visible in these postcards, please leave a comment. We would love to hear from you.