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Pinched Gut Historic District

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Pinched Gut Historic District
Historic Augusta, Inc.

The always-residential Pinched Gut Historic District lies at the eastern end of the original City of Augusta. The origins of the name "Pinched Gut" are not certain but may relate to the famished condition of residents during a 19th-century flood or the hour-glass figures of fashionable ladies in the district. The district, also called Olde Towne, is important for its large, intact collection of historic residential buildings, examples of 19th-century landscape architecture and city planning, and for associations with education and religious history.

Dwellings, dating from the early 19th century into the 1930s, range from small shotgun cottages to large two-story townhouses representing every popular residential architectural style from Federal to Craftsman. The district, which developed from north to south, was carved largely from the town common during and after the American Revolution.  The more substantial dwellings are along Broad, Greene, and Telfair Streets, downtown Augusta’s major east-west thoroughfares.  Elaborate mid-19th century homes on Bay Street facing the river gave way to the first levee built between 1909 and 1918 to protect the district from frequent flooding by the Savannah River. The largest concentration of c. 1810-1910 Late Greek Revival and Victorian townhouses in Augusta sits along the southern side of Greene Street and on Telfair Street and parts of Walker Street. Less substantial dwellings from the late 19th and early 20th centuries are in the eastern and southern areas.

A large section of Pinch Gut’s most elaborate antebellum homes from the north side of Greene Street north to the levee burned in Augusta’s disastrous 1916 fire. The fire burned 32 city blocks from 8th Street eastward to East Boundary Street.  The subsequent rebuilding exacerbated the trend of suburban relocation.  In many cases, compensation for ruined buildings from insurance companies was used to build “modern” homes in the new, fashionable suburbs.  Generally, less affluent residents built homes in the burned section of Pinched Gut after 1916, sometimes on big lots divided for the construction of two or more houses where there was originally one.

The Houghton School at 333 Greene Street is a pioneer effort at early free public education.  John W. Houghton, a bachelor leather and shoe merchant, died and left a bequest of $40,000 to endow and erect a 2-story, brick grammar school.  The original 1851 building burned in the 1916 fire requiring construction of the present building.

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Pinched Gut Historic District Telfair St.
Historic Augusta, Inc.

The levee, medians on Greene and Broad Streets, May Park, and the two public cemeteries—Magnolia Cemetery with its entrance at Walton Way and 3rd and adjacent Cedar Grove Cemetery are examples of 19th century landscape architecture. May Park served as a military parade ground. Dating from 1818, Magnolia Cemetery was for the burial of white citizens and Cedar Grove was for African Americans. In the realm of religion, the pioneering 1840 African Baptist Church, today known as Thankful Baptist Church, is at the corner of Walker and 3rd Streets.

Pinched Gut Historic District reflects important aspects of community planning in addition to the creation of the public cemeteries and the levee. From the late 18th century until the present, East Boundary and South Boundary (now Laney—Walker Boulevard) define the city limits. The city added streets and ranges of lots periodically as the town grew to these boundaries. 

Construction of the Augusta Canal in the late 1840s and the consequent transformation of the commercial town into a partially industrial city accelerated the sale of lots in the southern end of the district.  Although mill workers generally lived in company houses in other parts of town, a mechanic class and small-scale entrepreneurial class often settled in the southern portion of Pinched Gut. The 1916 fire created its own community planning by destroying the most affluent section of the district, which was rebuilt in a more modest fashion.  In the mid 1950s, Gordon Highway created a substantial physical boundary on the west side of the district.  The expressway further defined the district dividing it from the downtown business district and the more centrally located residential and institutional areas of Greene and Telfair streets.

Plan your visit

Pinched Gut Historic District is roughly bounded by Gordon Highway, East Boundary and Reynolds Sts. and Laney-Walker Blvd. The district includes mostly private homes not open to the public, but also some bed and breakfasts and other commercial and institutional buildings that may be open to the public.

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