North Augusta is located on the fall line of the Savannah River, across from Augusta, Georgia. In North Augusta there is a strong sense of preservation and it manifests itself in the old homes that have been saved as well as the style of new homes and commercial buildings. Nicknamed “South Carolina’s Riverfront,” the city hugs the beautiful Savannah River and was once home to a thriving 1800’s to 1930’s pottery-making business that made beautiful pottery from the blue clay used in its production. The potteries are long gone but new parks, ponds and bird sanctuaries now exist where factories once stood.
The climate has an annual average high temperature of 78 degrees while the average annual low is 50. This makes North Augusta an ideal destination for those seeking refuge from the cold winters of the North or the hurricanes of the coastal states. North Augusta has beautiful flower-filled springs, long summers, colorful falls and moderate winter weather. The Savannah River has always been an important part of its heritage. The river is the southwestern boundary and serves as the state boundary between South Carolina and Georgia.
Three earlier towns have stood in the area now known as North Augusta. The English established a trading post known as Savannah Town over 300 years ago. The town was abandoned when Augusta, Georgia proved to be more prosperous and attractive to traders. Campbell Town was established as a trading post for tobacco and Indian traders over 200 years ago. Again, competition, sometimes violent opposition, from the Georgia side of the Savannah River, coupled with a recession in the tobacco market spelled the end of Campbell Town in the early 1800s.
With the explosion of the cotton economy, this area became an important market for the increasingly valuable produce of planters throughout upper Georgia and South Carolina. In 1821 the town of Hamburg was established by the mechanical genius and entrepreneur Henry Shultz in direct commercial competition with Augusta. In 1833 the South Carolina Railroad was established, further connecting the cotton collected at Hamburg to the seaport of Charleston. The 1848 construction of the Augusta Canal channeled produce from upriver away from Hamburg. The final blow came when a bridge linked the South Carolina Railroad to Augusta allowing traffic to bypass the doomed town of Hamburg. Henry Shultz died in poverty and reportedly is buried upright on the bluff overlooking Hamburg with his back to Augusta.
Although Augusta, GA was a thriving city in the early 1800s the land across the river was usually referred to as “South Carolina.” It remained generally undeveloped and inaccessible except by boat until two forward thinking brothers from Augusta decided to change all that in the 1890s: Walter M. Jackson, Manager of the North Augusta Land Company, and his brother, James U. Jackson, the company’s founder, began to build a new city called North Augusta.
On March 24,1890, Walter and his brother James purchased 5,600 acres from Mattie Butler Mealing to begin the new city. Soon after they purchased the rolling hills across the river from Augusta, new roads, lighting and water service were installed by the company. Together, the vision was to build and improve the transportation between Augusta and North Augusta as well as other South Carolina communities. In 1891 they built a steel bridge over the Savannah River at Thirteenth Street in Augusta to encourage traffic and commerce to North Augusta via Georgia Avenue. The new route passed by Walter’s new home site at Georgia and Carolina Avenues. In 1895, he started building his new home, later known as Lookaway Hall, completing it in 1898.
In 1897 the brothers built a trolley line from Augusta to Aiken. To expand the public transportation system further the North Augusta Land Company constructed an interurban road in 1902, the first of its kind to be built in the South. The road was 25 miles long and connected Augusta to Aiken and several towns in between serving a growing population of over twenty-five thousand. Shortly after the trolley was operational the Augusta-Aiken Electric Railway was completed. The Jacksons were gaining a reputation in the South for developing a modern transportation infrastructure that laid the groundwork for the next phase of growth for North Augusta.
James envisioned a grand hotel that would become the world’s largest wooden structure of its time. In 1902 he started building the Hampton Terrace Hotel atop the hill with a stunning and commanding view of downtown North Augusta, Augusta and beyond. The hotel, one of the most sumptuously appointed hotels in the country, was situated just up the hill from Lookaway Hall. It was built for the then lofty sum of $536,000. The hotel’s grounds included a golf course, tennis courts, riding stables and a 1,500 acre game preserve. Almost immediately North Augusta became one of the most prestigious resort areas in the country. Many famous families and dignitaries such as the John D. Rockefellers, the Marshall Fields and the Harvey Firestones were frequent guests. President Howard Taft regarded the golf course as “challenging as well as impressive.” When Marshall Fields visited the Terrace in 1905, his grandsons stayed at Lookaway Hall with the Jackson family. Lookaway Hall became part of the center of the social high life during the Terrace’s heyday. The Hampton Terrace Hotel burned to the ground on December 31st, 1916, sparked by an electrical fire that totally consumed the grand hotel. Although James was prepared to rebuild, the country was on the verge of WWI in 1917 and the Hampton Terrace Hotel was never rebuilt. Today only remnants and memories can be found.
Avoiding the commercial pretensions of its predecessors, North Augusta was founded as a residential and resort town. Much of its development can be traced back to the establishment of the Hampton Terrace Hotel. And, after that fire, North Augusta thrived and became a vital part of the Augusta/Aiken metropolitan area. In April 2006, North Augusta celebrated its 100th anniversary. Discover North Augusta today and immerse yourself in history.
Note: For more information regarding North Augusta’s history:
- History of North Augusta, South Carolina, Herb Eaton, Inc. Charlotte, NC and Walsworth Publishing Co. Marceline, Mo. Copyright 1980, Published by the North Augusta Historical Society
- History of North Augusta, Volume II, The Donning Company Publishers, Virginia Beach, VA, Copyright 2000 Published by the Heritage Council of North Augusta