National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior

National Register of Historic Places Program:
African American History Month Feature 2013
Paine College Historic District, Augusta, Richmond County, Georgia

The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the Nation's historic places worthy of preservation. Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America's historic and archeological resources.

 

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Paine College Historic District
Photograph courtesy of the Georgia State Historic Preservation Office

Paine College Historic District, in Augusta, Georgia, was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on December 26, 2012. Representing one of the few institutions of higher education created by a biracial board of trustees in Georgia for African-American students, Paine College Historic District was found historically important on the state level. Important for its role in education and African American heritage, the event was marked by a statement from Paine College President George C. Bradley, who wrote, “This is a major milestone in the college’s 131 years of existence, and we look forward to making additional milestones and accomplishments in the legacy of Paine College.”

“The buildings on campus are pretty much intact,” Lynn Speno, who prepared the nomination for the National Register of Historic Places, told the Augusta Chronicle in a story published on January 16, 2013. “The setting, the landscape hasn’t moved or changed. They’re right there where they began.”

[photo]
Paine College Historic District
Photograph courtesy of the Georgia State Historic Preservation Office

Founded in 1882 by trustees from the Methodist Episcopal Church, South (MEC-S)and the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church in America (CEMC) with the goal of educating African-American youth, the institution was, from the beginning, a coeducational school.  Paine College continues to serve its original purpose of providing quality education and remains associated with the successor denominations of the founding churches.  The beginnings of the college go back to the Reconstruction Era (roughly 1865-1877), when the former Confederate states were placed under the authority of the federal government with the goal of readmitting them to the Union. Federal monetary assistance to African-American education came from the Freedman’s Bureau, but this ended in 1870. Afterwards, the primary financial support of these schools fell to missionary societies of white religious organizations.

Soon after the end of the Civil war in 1865, the Methodist Episcopal Church, South (which split from the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1844 because the parent Church did not favor clergy owning slaves) began discussing the possibility in 1866 of creating an educational institution for the purpose of educating the recently freed African-Americans. Rev. James Ezekiel Evans, a well-known Methodist minister in Georgia, formed a committee. In 1870 the Methodist Episcopal Church, South allowed its African-American members to create a parallel segregated denomination of their own, which was named the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church in America (often known as the CME Church or CMEC).

The Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and Congregationalists all had societies that helped them support educational work among the African American populations. African-American churches also contributed to private education in Georgia. The community of Springfield in Augusta was the center of educational activities for Augusta’s African-American citizens. Paine Institute (later named Paine College) was the first of three well-known, private, African-American schools founded in Augusta.  Another successful African American educational institution that began in Augusta, Georgia, was the Augusta Baptist Institute, founded in 1867 in Augusta’s Springfield Baptist Church. The institute later moved to Atlanta to become Morehouse College.

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Paine College Historic District
Photograph courtesy of the Georgia State Historic Preservation Office

By 1878 interest in the education of African Americans was again brought to the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, by some of its delegates, and plans began for the establishment of a college. This came to fruition during the May 1882 General conference of the MEC-S, held in Nashville, Tennessee when Bishop Lucius Holsey was authorized to present the idea to the delegates. Bishop Atticus Greene Haygood of the MEC-S had also been instrumental in promoting the idea with his book, Our Brother in Black, which was presented during the same conference. In response to these appeals the general conference authorized the bishops of the MEC-S to consult with the bishops of the CME Church and appoint a commissioner of education whose duty it would be to raise money for an educational fund “for the benefit of the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church in America.” The establishment of a board of trustees, consisting of three members of the MEC-S, three members of the CME Church, and the commissioner of education was authorized.

A committee was appointed to select a temporary location for the school. A decision was made to name the school the Pierce Institute in honor of Bishop Robert Paine (1799-1882) of the MEC-S, a long-time supporter of the establishment of such a school.  Classes began January 2, 1884 in rented quarters in the back upstairs room above Claussen’s Bakery on the southwest corner of Broad and Cumming (10th) Streets, now 1002 Broad Street. Classes continued to be held there until 1886.

From the beginning, the school was intended to offer a general education to students of both sexes from elementary grades through college and not limit itself to ministerial candidates. The initial classes numbered about 30 students, and by the second term in the fall of 1884, the space was crowded with about 70 students. Miss Sallie Davis was employed as the first woman teacher at Paine in November 1884.  The Reverend Morgan Calloway, D.D., the first President of Paine Institute, resigned in 1884 to be replaced by George W. Walker, the first teacher hired by the new school.

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Paine College Historic District
Photograph courtesy of the Georgia State Historic Preservation Office

In 1885 a gift of $25,000.00, to be used as an endowment, was received by Paine Institute from a Methodist pastor in Missouri named Rev. Moses U. Payne (no relation to Bishop Robert Paine). The gift made it possible for the administration to feel more secure about the future, and a permanent site, consisting of 9.9 acres located on the west side of Carnes Road, now Fifteenth Street, was purchased. The first graduate was Randall A. Carter in 1891. The Carter Gymnasium was later named after him.

In 1888 the trustees authorized the employment of the first African-American teacher for the college, John Wesley Gilbert, a Paine student whom had received a bachelor’s degree at the University of Rhode Island in 1888 before returning to Augusta. He was later considered the first African-American archeologist and the foremost African-American linguist in the country during his lifetime. He returned to Paine after these successes and taught Greek and English at Paine for the rest of his life, except for one year, 1913-1914, when he served as president of Miles College in Fairfield, Alabama. He died in Augusta in 1923.

There was a desire at Paine to construct a permanent main academic building that would be a symbol of the vision of the college. By 1898 plans came to fruition with $10,399.00 in hand, and additional subscriptions pledged, to erect Haygood Hall to be named in honor and memory of Bishop Atticus Greene Haygood (1839-1896). The building was completed in 1899. It was later destroyed by fire in 1968.

[photo]
Paine College Historic District
Photograph courtesy of the Georgia State Historic Preservation Office

Additional land for the college was purchased from 1902 to 1926. The first African-American President of Paine College was Dr. Lucius Holsey Pitts (1915-1974), who became president in 1971. He led the efforts to rebuild Haygood Hall. Today, the campus is still growing. The architecture of the historic district presents good examples of campus buildings that reflect the traditions of institutional architecture as it evolved from classicism to modernism. The 1920s buildings were designed by Tisdale, Stone and Pinson, architects of Nashville, Tennessee, and stand as examples of the Colonial Revival and Classical style of college architecture. The majority of the rest of the buildings were designed by Kuhlke and Wade architects of Augusta. These buildings display the use of the Colonial Revival style for a college campus, with the use of brick, stone, and cast concrete elements of the style. The Randall Carter Gymnasium, Graham Hall, and the Peters Campus Center are the only International Style buildings on the campus and are representative of modern architecture in Georgia.

The above was largely taken from the National Register nomination for Paine College Historic District, written by Lynn Speno, National Register Specialist for the Georgia department of Natural Resources.

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