In the Beginning (1783)
Augusta State University really has two histories. Its academic roots can be traced to 1783 when the Academy of Richmond County was chartered. Opening in 1785, it offered college-level classes for boys to enter universities as sophomores or juniors.
During the Civil War, studies were suspended and the building became a hospital for wounded soldiers. Richmond Academy re-emerged after the war with former Confederate Colonel George Washington Rains as regent.
A board of trustees oversaw operation of the academy until 1909 when control passed to the local Board of Education. However, the university system continued to supervise the college-level classes. In 1910, a formal fifth year of study was added.
With the Academy flourishing, it soon outgrew its accommodations on Telfair Street. Land for a new building was purchased on Baker Avenue (present site of ARC) and a decision was made to add a second year of college work. In 1925, before the building was completed, the Junior College of Augusta was established, becoming the first junior college in the state.
Enrollment grew. A solution to overcrowding presented itself in 1955 when the Augusta Arsenal was slated to be closed. At this point, the history of the university merges with that of the Augusta Arsenal
Augusta Arsenal (1826)
Originally, the U.S. Arsenal was on the banks of the Savannah River. However, the site proved to be unhealthy, with frequent fevers and deaths occurring among the soldiers and their families. The commandant, Capt. Matthew M. Payne, recommended the arsenal be moved to the healthier "hill" location, and in 1826 Congress authorized the purchase of 72 acres that were owned by Sen. Freeman Walker. Walker's summer estate, called Belle Vue (beautiful vista) was purchased for $6,000, and a one-acre parcel was set aside as a cemetery for the Walker family.
The arsenal relocated the following year alongside the toll plank road that became known as Walton Way. With a $49,000 appropriation and some building materials from the original arsenal, four buildings (the present quadrangle) connected by a loop-holed wall were constructed. The buildings were completed in 1828 with the first occupants being Company C, Second Artillery. During the later part of that year, the arsenal was already supplying arms for the Georgia militia and for the Harper's Ferry Armory.
The troops saw action in the Seminole War in 1835 and also in campaigns against the Creek Indians. Interestingly, Lt. William T. Sherman spent 6 months at the arsenal in 1844. He is remembered most for his later march through Georgia during the Civil War.
The Arsenal Surrenders (1861)
In 1860, during "Nullification Troubles", the U.S. government re-enforced the arsenal with 22,000 muskets and rifles along with an artillery unit commanded by Captain Arnold Elzey. When Georgia seceded from the Union on January 19, 1861, Governor Joseph E. Brown called for the arsenal's surrender, a demand backed by a thousand local militiamen.
Confederate President Jefferson Davis charged Col. George Washington with establishing a powder works which would supply all of the Confederate ground forces. He chose Augusta and built the Confederate Powder Works, alongside the Augusta Canal and the Savannah River. It became the second largest powder manufactory in the world, turning out about 30,000 pounds of powder in a single day. Col. Rains commanded the powder works, the arsenal, and other city works, which contributed to the war effort. The arsenal also produced cavalry equipment, field gear, bayonet scabbards, and cartridge boxes.
About 30 companies of soldiers from our area trained at the arsenal, and more than 2,000 men were sent into active duty. A hospital was constructed on the site, and wounded Confederate solders were treated here. (The Academy of Richmond County was closed during the war, and their building was also used as a hospital.)
In early spring of 1865, the South surrendered, and in May, the arsenal was surrendered to the United States government.
The War Years (1911)
Augusta Arsenal proved itself invaluable to the country during the Spanish American conflict, manufacturing large quantities of cavalry equipment, seacoast targets, etc., as well as serving as a repair and supply point.
In 1911 Col. J. Walker Benet took command. He was the son of the co-designer of the Benet-Mercer machine gun and father of poets, William Rose and Stephen Vincent Benet. During his command, the arsenal became a center for the repair of rifles and other small arms needed for World War I. Following the Armistice in 1918, only a skeleton force remained to serve field stations in the Fourth Corps Area. During this period, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) helped modernize the arsenal by paving roads and improving the buildings.
The Second World War greatly expanded military activities at the arsenal: 50 new buildings were constructed for maintenance and supply of ordnance material and fire control operations. Over a thousand people worked at the arsenal during World War II.
In 1955 the decision was made to close the arsenal, and efforts began to obtain the property for the junior college.
The arsenal (with the exception of five acres kept for the U.S. Army Reserves) was given to the Board of Education, and with little renovation, it became home to the Junior College of Augusta in 1957.
Augusta College is Born (1958)
In 1958, the college became a member of the University System of Georgia and its name was changed to Augusta College. Still a two-year college, it wasn't until 1963 that four-year status was gained. The final five-acre tract (housing Galloway Hall) was acquired during the 1970s.
A second campus was added in 1991 when the 244 acre Forest Hills campus on Wrightsboro Road opened. The Forest Hills campus, with a 3800 seat arena, also includes an 18 hole golf course designed by Donald Ross. Golfing great, Bobby Jones, played the course in 1930, winning the first of what became his Grand Slam of Golf.
The building that anchors the physical education/athletic complex on Wrightsboro Road was renamed Christenberry Fieldhouse in 2003 to honor former Augusta Collge president George A. Christenberry. It contains three classrooms, a human physiology lab, a weight room, a multipurpose room, a four-lane indoor walking track, a training room, locker facilities, and basketball courts. The athletic complex also includes playing fields and practice fields for baseball, softball, and intramurals.
Following a University System of Georgia name change for most four-year colleges in 1996, Augusta College became Augusta State University.
Augusta's University (2001 - Present)
Allgood Hall, completed in 2002, is a 123,000 square foot, $20 million building named in honor of former state senator and regent of the University System of Georgia, Thomas F. Allgood, Sr., and his wife, "T".
A new master plan was adopted in 2004 to guide the university's future growth and includes the university's first student housing complex, University Village. The gated residential complex, which opened in 2005, is located near ASU's Wrightsboro Road property. It provides housing for approximately 500 students.
With construction finished on the two classroom replacement buildings, demolition of six aged academic buildings (former arsenal warehouses) was completed in 2004. University Hall, a $22 million project opened for classes in fall 2004. That project also included the redesign of the Walton Way entrance to campus, with a 19-foot-high wrought iron fountain as a centerpiece. A 50,000 square-foot Jaguar Student Activities Center, connected to Reese Library, opened in 2005, providing wellness facilities, meeting rooms, ballroom, and new dining facilities. In 2009, the D. Douglas Barnard, Jr., Amphitheatre opened, which provides an outdoor venue for programs and student activities.
The Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia voted on Jan. 10, 2012 to consolidate Augusta State University with Georgia Health Sciences University. The move draws on the strengths of two historic universities to create an even greater, new comprehensive research university.