Augusta's History via the Canal...

Since our time in this Georgia town was brief, we headed directly to the Augusta Canal National Heritage Area, with its incredible museum that tells the city's 'beginnings' based on the construction of the canal.

The Augusta Canal, built in 1845 as a source of power, water and transportation, is the only intact industrial canal in the American South in continuous use. Spearheaded by Augusta native Henry H. Cumming, who perceived that Augusta could one day become an industrialized, manufacturing town with the building of a canal. The Augusta Canal began to fulfill Cumming’s vision in short order. By 1847 the first factories – a saw and grist mill and the Augusta Factory-were built, the first of many that would eventually line the Canal. Hydro-power would come to make everything run efficiently.

As mill after mill opened along the canal, it became clear that Augusta's gamble on industrialism had paid off in a very big way. Around 1900, Augusta flourished, with 23 mills operating from the canal's 12,000-horsepower water-power capability. The city's mills produced everything from textiles to iron machinery.

As an early economic development project, a group of local business men formed the Sibley Manufacturing Company in 1880. Soon after the mill began operation, it became one of the largest and most successful cotton mills in the region, a model of good management and worker relations. Eventually, Sibley Mill became a part of the Graniteville Mills. Modernized in order to compete in an ever-increasing world market, the mill continued in operation until 2006, making denim used by major clothing manufacturers. Although no longer used for textile production, the mill's water-driven turbines still generate electricity which is sold to Georgia Power.
This magnificent 76 ft wide, 528 ft long, four storied, 160,000 sq ft building has been vacant since 2006. I can only imagine the memories those bricks hold.

We strolled the banks of the canal, trying to picture it teeming with that activity that made Augusta into an industrial leader over 200 years ago. In the 21st century, the Augusta Canal is once again a source of pride and potential for its community. The Heritage Center's exhibits and artifacts, which depict Canal construction and mill life, remind Augustans and us visitors of the progress, problems and promise of the Augusta Canal. This was a very interesting history lesson that we are glad we learned.

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Karen Booth said...

Great history, but the flower was my favorite.

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