The Laney Walker Development Corporation feels pride in one’s community and its heritage are important to any revitalization effort in a community. The Laney Walker/Bethlehem area is rich in Black Heritage that needs to be preserved. Several buildings of historic significance are on the list of endangered buildings that need to be saved for future generations. Below are three which we feel are in need of immediate attention. Join us in our efforts to save these structures.
Donations may be made to an individual project or to preservation in general. All contributions are tax deductible and may be made to:
Laney Walker Development Corporation, P. O. Box 2301, Augusta, GA 30903
Charles T. Walker Home
Charles T. Walker is best known as the founder of Tabernacle Baptist Church. His fame and accomplishments, however, extend far beyond the boundaries of Augusta, Georgia
Born a slave a slave in Hephzibah, Georgia in 1858, he was orphaned by the age of 8. Paying for his studies at August Theological Institute by eating, it is said, only two meals a day, Rev. Walker was the driving force in establishing the Tabernacle Baptist Church in 1885. By 1889, the church’s membership exceeded 2000.
Rev. Walker’s sermonizing became known worldwide. He was often referred to as the “Black Spurgeon” a reference to British Baptist minister Charles Spurgeon who was known as the “Prince of Preachers”. Rev. Walker was invited to give a sermon in London where it was said he enraptured the crowed with his fiery and erudite type. In the U.S., Walker had President Wm. Howard, Taft, John D. Rockefellar and Booker T. Washington attending his services. Walker was also a driving force in the civil rights movement during these years and delivered a speech to 8,000 at Carnegie Hall declaring, “The Negro is an American Citizen. The amendment to the Constitution did not make us men, God made us men before man made us citizens.” After a trip to the Holy Land in 1891, Rev. Walker’s opposition to the “separate but equal” status of American blacks became more pronounced. In Charles T. Walker’s obituary in the New York Times, he was called the “greatest Negro preacher of his time. He was a driving force not only in Augusta, Ga but throughout the world. His home is on Historic Augusta’s endangered list.
Scipio S. Johnson House
1420 Twiggs Street was the home of Dr. Scipio S. Johnson, an African-American doctor who lived in the home from the time it was built in the 1920’s until his death in 1932. Dr. Johnson served the Laney Walker/Bethlehem community both as a physician and as a pharmacist. For a period time, he ran a pharmacy out of his home. When the City Hospital (later University Hospital) barred African American physicians, he founded Bruce Hospital for African American patients. Dr. Johnson was a graduate of the Haines Institute, the Lincoln Institute as well as Georgetown University. He was a prominent member of the black community.
Dr. Johnson’s two story craftsman style brick home is one of the largest in the area. It was placed on Historic Augusta’s endanger list several years ago.
Penny Savings Bank
One of the first banks founded in the United States, wholly owned by the black community was the Penny Savings & Loan Bank located at the corner of Ninth Street and Laney Walker Blvd. In 1910, a group of community leaders came together to found this bank. Its charter, like any other financial institute, had profit as one of its goals. It also wanted to “encourage the savings and investing of small amounts of money; to aid men and women of small means in securing homes; to stimulate and encourage thrift and industry and the spirit of enterprise among the people by loaning the means to establish small industries and enterprise; and in general to be helpful to those who need help by teaching them to help themselves and be economical.” Though the bank was lofty in its goals, it closed its doors in the mid 1920’s.
Today the building stands as a tribute to the vibrant community that developed it It is now in need of renovation so that this historic building continues to remind the community of its heritage.