By Rebecca Lane Boyles
In the early 1850's Thomas Hough, the founder of Augusta, built a 2 story wood frame structure on the corner of 3rd and Mulberry. The building served as a lodge hall for The Masonic Fraternity and The Knights and Ladies of Honor. It was also home to The Methodist, The Baptist, and The Presbyterians who shared the space for their worship services.
Jackson Chapel - 3rd & Mulberry when First United Methodist now stands.
Hough married Francis Lush Arrington in 1855. She was Presbyterian and would have worshipped in this building as a young bride. Although she probably didn't mind sharing the space, she dreamed of having a real Presbyterian Church like those back east. Her husband helped make this a reality by donating the land at 3rd and Walnut for the site of the church.
In 1861 Reverend S.W.Davies, J.A. Barr, and Elder T.A. Krieder were appointed to organize the church. At some point that same year the brick foundation was laid. Due to the out break of The Civil War, the church was not finished until 1871. Reverend Davies served as Minister from 1861 - 1874.
Undated Presbyterian Church - note the bell tower still in picture.
Another important paster of the church was Reverend Anderson Ross Kennedy, who served from 1877 - 1881. His wife, Marion was an older sister to our 28th President Woodrow Wilson. Wilson often spent his summers in Augusta visiting his sister and attending worship at her husbands church.
The 1880's into the early 1920's were considered good times for the church. Unfortunately, by the 1930's Depression Era, the church like the rest of the nation was hit by hard times. Membership began to dwindle and it was finally disbanded in the 1960's with the building turned over to The City of Augusta. In the 1970's it did a short stint as a school for young children. After a fire the school was closed and the building boarded up. After a span of time it was then condemned by the city.
In May of 1985 The Augusta Improvement Club signed a 99 year lease with The City of Augusta to take over the property. Their plan was to restore the building and turn it into a museum.
The President Betty Eldridge appointed a committee to oversee the project:
Chairman: Virginia Boyles
Committee Members: Carolyn Kittrell, Sharon Stanley, Martha Keath, Franchell Daniel, amd Gayne Schmidt
Restoration Administrator: Raymond Boyles
Fundraising Chair: John Rolfe Eldridge
Treasurer: Dorothy Willis
Artist Rendering by Dan Gullic in 1998
After untold hours of labor, financial gifts from former members of the church, and lovers of history - the restoration was complete. A dedication service was held on May 24, 1998. The "Old Church" became our "Heritage Center". Guest speaker for the dedication was Richard Davies, great-great Grandson of the church's first pastor Reverend S.W. Davies.
The "Heritage Center" is a wonderful example of "Gothic Revival" architecture and is also the oldest standing church in Augusta. The church boasts restored, original, stained glass windows, pews, the restored original organ, and pulpit. The original church bell is on display inside the church. The church is one of several buildings in Augusta on the national register.
Restored Organ in Sanctuary
The project was a labor of love by the members of The Improvement Club and all who helped save a part of history.