Discover Bethlehem Historic District - This district is significant as an intact historically African American urban neighborhood located in southern Augusta Georgia.
Bethlehem Historic District
During the 1870s, 3 families owned the area of the Bethlehem community: the Jacksons, Steiners, and Picquets. By 1876, all 3 property owners had begun to subdivide their land to accommodate new interest in settlement of the area due to its favorable location.
The Central of Georgia Railroad runs along the east side of the neighborhood and two early roads, Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. (Milledgeville Road) and Savannah Road, merge near the center of the neighborhood. Because the district had both rail and road related transportation, industries located in the area.
These industries included the Georgia-Carolina Warehouse and Compress Company, the Southeastern Compress and Warehouse Company, brick yards, lumberyards, and the Central of Georgia railroad yard. They employed those who settled in the neighborhood. The district also had a number of stores located along the intersections of major streets including grocery stores, barbershops, shoe repair shops, gas stations, and drug stores.
The district is architecturally significant for its excellent collection of historic residential, commercial, and community landmark buildings in a variety of styles—Shotgun, Folk Victorian, Colonial Revival, and Craftsman. The residential housing stock was built around the roads and railroad lines. Most of the houses were small so that a large number could fit into a small area. Some of the later homes are larger.
In 1898, Walter S. Hornsby, Sr. founded the Pilgrim Health and Life Insurance Company, the largest African American business in Augusta at the turn of the century. Pilgrim grew to be one of the leading insurance companies owned and operated by African Americans. Hornsby resided in Bethelehem. The Hornsby home on Twiggs Street, a large Colonial Revival style dwelling, is one of the few high style residences in the area.
Churches were important and vital institutions within the Bethlehem neighborhood. The church not only performed religious services but also served as a social center to discuss political issues, provide education, and support cultural activities. Intact historic churches include Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church (c. 1880) on Daniel Street, Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church (c. 1900) on Maple Street, and Mount Calvary Baptist Church (c. 1927) and Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church (c. 1921) on Wrightsboro Road. One of the most significant buildings is the Bethlehem Community Center established by a Methodist women’s organization in 1912 to provide day care and educational programs for the youth of the community. Brick veneer alters the exterior, but the interior still has its original plan, materials, and workmanship. The neighborhood adopted the Bethlehem name from the community center in the twentieth century.
Bethlehem Historic District is roughly bounded by Wrightsboro Rd., Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd., Railroad, Poplar, and Clay Sts. Most of the buildings are not open to the public.