Category Archives: Fitzgerald GA

Beall-Dowlen House, 1900s, Fitzgerald

This Eclectic Victorian house was built by the Beall family of Bowen’s Mill circa 1907, then served as the parsonage of the Methodist church from 1912 until 1944. Sam P. and Hazel Evans Dowlen purchased it that year and their daughter, Nan Lee, lovingly maintains it to this day.

Nan is very passionate about the history of the house and notes that it’s essentially in original condition.

South Main Street-South Lee Street Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

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Saunderson House, 1900s, Fitzgerald

This was the home of Warren Edgar (Sr.) and Ruby Walker Saunderson. Mr. Saunderson was one of the pioneer settlers of the Old Soldiers’ Colony of Fitzgerald. The form, a Victorian T-Plan gable front house, was popular with immigrants to the colony from Indiana and is one of several remaining examples in Fitzgerald. It features a patriotic Union shield in the front vent. I believe the house dates to circa 1905.

Thanks to Jan Stokes for the identification. She grew up down the street and recalls: Mr. Saunderson was tall and thin and very quiet. Mrs. Saunderson was short, round, and jolly.

South Main Street-South Lee Street Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

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Ruins of Aldine Hotel, Fitzgerald

Irwin County entrepreneur Wright Tomberlin Paulk (1873-1922) built the Aldine Hotel [pronounced al-dean] circa 1904, to capitalize on the rapid growth of the recently settled”Old Soldier’s Colony” at Fitzgerald. He named it for his daughter, who died at the age of eighteen months in 1898. In its early days it was one of the leading hotels of the city and was later modified for use as a retail space for various businesses. I recall a Fred’s Store being located here when I was a child in the late 1970s and early 1980s. As the above photograph shows, the front of the structure was sided with inappropriate concrete veneer at some point.

The original hotel was three stories; I believe this rear section was a later addition.

The structure had been abandoned and neglected for many years and in the past year or so bricks began to collapse into the adjacent alley, creating a serious liability and hazard. Sadly, this is the fate of far too many commercial structures in small towns all over Georgia.

As of October 2020, the property has been cleared.

Fitzgerald Commercial Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

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Vernacular House, Westwood

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West Side Church of God, Westwood

This is one of two abandoned churches in Westwood.

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West Point Missionary Baptist Church, Westwood

West Point Baptist Church is an historic African-American congregation in the Westwood community of Fitzgerald. Westwood was populated by skilled African-American machinists, most of whom worked in the nearby Atlantic Coast Line Railroad shops. It’s interesting that the establishment of the church predates the settlement of Fitzgerald and the location of the railroad by nearly 20 years. The present structure was built in 1972.

The church, which is the center of the Westwood community today, recently lost its well-loved and long serving pastor, Reverend Willie B. Pride (1938-2020).

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Folk Victorian House, Fitzgerald

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Fitzgerald’s Historic Lynwood School Being Demolished

When word came recently that my old elementary school was being demolished, I was already expecting it but it still brought a rush of emotions. This is where I spent most of my life from the 1st through 7th grades.

I made this photograph of the school in 2010.For more photographs and a bit of history, visit the original post.

Ben Hill, like many Georgia counties, had a city and county school system well into the late 20th century. Lynwood was the county school. During my lifetime, it was officially known as Ben Hill County Elementary School.

The structure has been vacant for quite a few years and has been deteriorating.

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of old schoolhouses like this wasting away all over Georgia.

A few counties have successfully put theirs to use, but that’s the exception, not the rule.

People always ask why a place like this is torn down and not put to good use.

The answer is never simple, and can be attributed to numerous factors, including political calculations, lack of funding, and the absence of a community effort.

In the case of Lynwood, a recent explanation arose of the need for a traffic roundabout on the adjacent state highway.

I hope the roundabout makes the area safer, but I know I’ll miss my old school on the hill.

Following are interior shots made just before the deconstruction was complete.

Classroom

Side hallway (this was the way to the concession stand).

Restroom

Hallway

Auditorium seats

Stage

Auditorium (looking toward lobby)

Auditorium (looking toward stage)

 

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Jay-Eppes House, Circa 1900, Fitzgerald

Pioneer settler David Belton Jay built this home on the edge of the newly settled town of Fitzgerald circa 1900. It would have been a country house at the time but is now well within the city limits.

My friend Lydia Jay Mason shares some historical background on her great-grandfather in the heartfelt memoir Growing Up Southern: In 1896, David Belton Jay, affectionately known as D. B., moved his family to Fitzgerald… from Morgan, Georgia…Later, that same year, his parents, James Lemuel and Priscilla Jay, followed them to Fitzgerald and were two of the thirty-four charter members of the First Baptist Church in Fitzgerald. 

Jay was instrumental in 1905 in leading the drive for Fitzgerald to leave Irwin County and form its own county, Ben Hill…There is a story of how several men from Irwin County wanted to meet D. B. Jay in a duel because of his desire for Fitzgerald to become a new county. The men knew that would lead to the taking of revenues from their county.

A 1943 newspaper account by Jesse Mercer notes: Soon after the colony had been established and before I moved to Fitzgerald an effort had been made to move the county seat to the city from remote Irwinville, a very difficult thing to do in Georgia…Jay was a prime over in the undertaking, as in everything for the community advancement. Returning from a remote district in the then large county, he met in the road a party of active and violent opponents to removal. Then and there, during the inevitable controversy that ensued, an attempt was made to assassinate him, and it was his single-handed, manly and courageous stand that saved his life.]

The Frank Eppes family has owned and lovingly maintained it for many years.

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Vernacular African-American Church, Fitzgerald

I will update with an identification as soon as I can track down some history of this structure, which is among the oldest wooden churches in Fitzgerald.

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