In 1968, the Rankin House at 1440 Second Avenue was donated to the Historic Columbus Foundation in memory of James Waldo Woodruff, Sr., a visionary community leader.
House History and Info
Fully restored, its first floor is an 1850-1870 house museum and Research Library. On the second floor are the main offices of Historic Columbus Foundation, Inc. The Rankin House was built for James Rankin, a planter and owner of The Rankin Hotel, who immigrated to Columbus from Ayrshire in Scotland. Work on this mansion was started prior to the Civil War but was not completed until the war ended. The construction of the house is attributed to Lawrence Wimberly Wall, a native of South Carolina who worked as a brick mason in Savannah before coming to Columbus in the 1850s.
The house is noted for its exquisite iron grillwork on the lower veranda and flying balcony. Wide heart-of pine floor boards, windowsills of cast iron, and hand-carved cornices and door frames are also distinctive features of the house. A structural focal point of the interior is the graceful solid walnut double stairway, which rises from both sides of a spacious center hall to a landing between the first and second floors.
The lower floor has been restored as an 1850-1870 house museum and decorated in the representative Victorian style of that era. Original colors have been used throughout the museum rooms. The fabrics in these rooms are specially created reproductions of materials of the period and were authenticated by a curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
The marble mantels in the north parlor and the dining room are original to the house, as is the Rankin Mirror in the north parlor. The cornices in the north parlor are identical in detail to the mirror. The elegant sideboard in the dining room is said to be a duplicated of one which is on exhibit in the Louvre.
Period gaslight chandeliers are a highlight of the museum rooms. The music room boasts a rosewood piano of concert quality; a picture of Mr. Rankin, the home’s original owner; and a Rankin family petticoat table and ornate gilt mirror. A piano forte is displayed in the south parlor.
Another feature of the house is its original utility stairway. This exterior staircase served as a fire escape and as a means by which servants could discreetly gain access to rooms on the upper floor.
In an article entitled "People Who Live in Fine Houses", which appeared in the February 9, 1898 issue of Columbus's "Enquirer-Sun" newspaper, the Rankin house was valued at $18,500 and given a higher valuation than any other house within the city limits of the day. In 1972, the Rankin House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Restoration of the Rankin House and the furnishing of the museum rooms were accomplished through the cooperation of the Historic Columbus Foundation, the Junior League of Columbus, The Columbus Town Committee of the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Georgia, and many interested individuals. Mrs. Charles Marion Woolfolk, the interior decorator, and Edward Warner Neal, the restoration architect, both Columbus natives, were particularly instrumental in the refurbishing of this house.
The fence enhancing the property formerly surrounded the upper Broadway townhouse of General Henry Lewis Benning, the Confederate war hero for whom Fort Benning is named. The Rankin House courtyard was given in memory of Charlie Frank Williams, a prominent Columbus civic and community leader.