Welcome Center adds historic map, key, photos for viewing

Published 12:25 pm Thursday, November 5, 2015

AMERICUS — A 3 1/2-foot-by-5-foot replica aerial map of Americus from 130 years ago is the newest addition to the Americus Welcome Center downtown.
The high-quality foam board map is viewable on a front wall inside the Welcome Center for local residents and visitors alike to enjoy. Custom-size maps also can be purchased from Chuck Smith at The Maze in Americus. Installed in September, the map is the latest of several new attractions at the center in the past year.
The map from 1885 depicts the city’s streets and several of its major businesses from that era. The names of several prominent leaders and businesses are recognizable by Sumter Countians and their descendants even today. Among them are Peoples National Bank; J.W. Wheatley and Co., bankers; Georgia Loan and Trust Co.; Harold, Johnson and Co., commission merchants; T. Wheatley, dry goods and clothing; James Fricker and Bro., jewelry and musical instruments; C.B. Bosworth, groceries, wholesale and retail; J.P. Chapman, restaurant, saloon and billiards; and Variety Works.
Also spotlighted on the map are the Sumter County Courthouse; Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist and Episcopal churches; schools; post office; depot; and the Commercial Hotel. Insets of the Commercial Hotel as well as scenes of Jackson Street, Cotton Avenue and Forsythe Street, spelled with an “E,” are easy to read.
The bird’s-eye view depicts a busy downtown business district. Unlike today, however, houses are far fewer in number and more broadly spaced. Around Rees Park, one of Americus’ most scenic areas today, the large houses were few and far between in 1885. One of the houses included on the map is the Allen House. In all, two dozen structures are highlighted. According to Smith at The Maze, similar maps of Americus were also made in the 1890s and in the early 1900s. The original 1885 map was purchased by Smith at a shop in Albany several years ago.
In addition to the map, the Welcome Center has installed a new 5 1/2-inch framed key, a gift from Herschel and Flossie Morris of Americus. The key is believed to be the original front-door key to the Windsor Hotel from 1892. Text underneath the key details its history. Herschel Morris, a longtime Americus postmaster, and his wife donated the key this past spring.
On the side and back walls of the Welcome Center are an additional 35 historic photographs of Americus from the late 1800s to the 1970s. The framed photographs are in various shapes and sizes, most about 24-by-36 inches. They include a variety of structures and topics, from the 1884 Presbyterian Church to the 1908 Carnegie Library to the 1912 Americus Fire Department crew to the dedication of the new Lake Blackshear Regional Library in 1976.
The original photos are stored at the Georgia Archives in Morrow and are part of the Vanishing Georgia Collection. Copies were enlarged by the Geographic Information System (GIS) Department at the City of Americus. The wood for the frames was donated by Johnny Shiver of Shiver Lumber Co. in Americus. The wood came from the original flooring at Shiver’s in 1900.
The Americus Welcome Center encourages local residents as well as out-of-towners to visit. The center is located on the first floor of the Municipal Building, at 101 W. Lamar St. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays.
— Submitted by Americus-Sumter County Tourism Council Inc.