The Georgia Postcard Collection

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Written by our friends at the Athens Heritage Room

The Georgia postcard collection offers a visual feast for those interested in Athens history. The collection includes a total of 70 different images (79 postcards because there are duplicate copies of several), of which 65 depict buildings and scenes in Athens at various points in its history. The collection will continue to grow as more postcards are found or donated to the Heritage Room. 

Among the postcards of significant historical interest are shots of Clayton Street looking eastward from its intersection with Lumpkin Street in the 1970s; the Prince Avenue home where the Ladies Garden Club was established, that was later made part of Young Harris Memorial United Methodist Church; and the original location of St. Mary’s Hospital on Milledge Avenue—a beautiful building demolished in the 1960s. Many of the postcards were scanned years ago by Heritage Room staff, so you can have a quick look at them at our Flickr page.

Athens: In Time, the Heritage Room’s blog, will highlight particular aspects of the postcard collection over the coming months. To begin, we have three buildings that look considerably different now than they did in the past.

As noted above, the home where the Ladies Garden Club was founded has since become part of Young Harris, a peaceful, green spot amid the hustle and bustle of contemporary Prince Avenue.

Next is a postcard showing the St. Mary’s building on Baxter St. as it looked when it was originally constructed. 

As seen here, even modern buildings can change (in this case, had additions made to the original structure) to such an extent that old photographs of them inspire the viewer’s imagination. The phrase, “the past is a foreign country,” made famous by the novelist L. P. Hartley, comes to mind. 

Another example of a building that looks considerably different in the present day is the University of Georgia Coliseum. This postcard has a handwritten date on the back, 1973, but that date could refer to the postcard’s publication date, as the photograph appears to show the coliseum not too long after its opening in 1964. We hope seeing this local landmark in its original form brings back memories of University sports events, not to mention the music concerts that were regularly featured there.

On a related note, you may want to read A Postcard History of Athens, Georgia, written by local historian Gary L. Doster, available to read in the Heritage Room and to check out from the library’s non-fiction section. This book, as well as related books that Doster has published covering different areas of Georgia, shows photographs from hundreds of postcards, and provides the historical background necessary to contextualize them. [Note: as of April 14, when this post was made, the Athens-Clarke Country Library building is temporarily closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.] Video footage of a talk that Doster gave at the library in 2017, Athens Then and Now: What a Difference 100 Years Can Make, is available at the library’s website and YouTube.


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