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Academy of Richmond County

Old Academy of Richmond County Photo 1

Old Academy of Richmond County
Historic Augusta, Inc.

The old Academy of Richmond County is a hallmark for the Georgia public education system authorized by Georgia’s earliest legislation regarding public education. Established in 1783 as the first such institution of its kind in the State of Georgia, the academy initially held classes in a building on Bay Street beginning in 1785. The provisions of the original act establishing it provided for a Board of Trustees with broad powers in the town of Augusta.  The board was to raise funds for building both a “seminary of learning” and a church, financing them through the sale of lots in the town. Lots were periodically laid out along with new streets, and then sold as the population grew.

While located on Bay Street, the academy hosted President George Washington in 1791 during his southern tour.  The two frame buildings near the Savannah River gradually deteriorated, prompting the construction of a new building on Telfair Street, designed and built by Richard Clarke, which the academy occupied in 1802. The earliest portion of this building appears today much as it did in 1856-57, when William Henry Goodrich was in charge of remodeling it in the Tudor-Gothic Revival style.  Alterations made in the mid-19th century include the battlements atop the parapet walls, the dripstone of molded brick above all of the windows, and the cast-iron clustered columns on the front façade portico.

Old Academy of Richmond County Photo 2

Old Academy of Richmond County
Historic Augusta, Inc.

The academy continued in successful operation until after the Battle of Chickamauga, when the Confederate authorities used it as an administrative building for a hospital.  It reopened as a school in 1868, remaining on Telfair Street until 1926, then moving to a new building near Summerville.  From 1928 until 1960, the Young Men’s Library Association used the ground floor of the Telfair Street building, while the Augusta Museum utilized the upper floor beginning in 1933.  After the library moved out, the museum occupied the entire building until 1994 before relocating to a new facility on Reynolds Street. The building is still owned and maintained by the Trustees of the Academy of Richmond County, authorized by the original legislation of 1783.

Plan your visit

The old Academy of Richmond County is located at 540 Telfair St. within the boundaries of the Augusta Downtown Historic District. It is not open for tours.  The Academy has been documented by the National Park Service's Historic American Buildings Survey.

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