City to preserve heritage with purchase of historic Walker house

Upon Augusta Commission approval, the city acquired the home for further community economic development as part of the Laney Walker/Bethlehem revitalization.
Published: Mar. 15, 2023 at 11:57 AM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - In a ceremony Wednesday, the city of Augusta marked the purchase of the Rev. Charles T. Walker house at 1011 Laney Walker Blvd. from Historic Augusta Inc.

The purchase is meant to preserve the home as part of the Laney Walker-Bethlehem neighborhood revitalization project.

Walker was born into slavery in the 1800s but made his way out as a founder of the Tabernacle Baptist Church, which grew into one of the region’s largest congregations.

When Gwinnett Street was renamed Laney Walker Boulevard in the 1970s, famed educator Lucy Craft Laney and Walker were chosen to be honored.

Subsequently, the surrounding neighborhood and National Register Historic District were also named for Laney and Walker.

“It goes really deep. This is really the mecca of the Black history portion of Augusta,” said Leon Maben, a Laney Walker neighbor.

Maben has lived here on and off for 60 years. He says it was about 10 years ago when he heard about the city’s revitalization plan that he moved back.

“I feel real good right now for what I see, but what I don’t want to happen is for the community, with this revitalization, to lose its character and its history of the community,” he said.

The Augusta Housing and Community Development Department says that growth is in the six to eight plots of land the department acquired through the help of the city and the land bank.

Housing and Community Development Director Hawthorne Welcher Jr. said the project “allows for us now to truly have the conversation about a grocery store, to truly have a conversation about delis, to truly have a conversation about coffee shops.”

Augusta Commission member Jordan Johnson said: “This is just the beginning of what we believe will be the revitalization and the rebirth of not just Laney Walker as a neighborhood, but as a thriving community.”

But it’s not without its worries.

Maben said: “I hope with this new prosperity coming in, that it does not force my old neighbors out.”

What’s next

The Augusta Housing and Community Development Department plans to unveil another major announcement on the neighborhood revitalization the week after the Masters Tournament.