Fairview Historic District
The Fairview Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. Portions of the content of this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2015, The Gombach Group.
The City of Valdosta experienced much growth and development from 1880 to 1915. Most of this growth was located along the boundaries of the railroads and main roads. The Fairview Historic District became the home for many of Valdosta's founders and prominent families. Due to the prime location of the area, these families chose to build here. Architect Stephen Fulghum designed many of the larger, more imposing homes such as the Robert Myddleton home at 416 River Street, possibly Fulghum's first in the neighborhood. The lovely Queen Anne Victorian house at 303 Wells Street is another of his designs. By 1910, the neighborhood consisted primarily of the large houses. Around the late 1910s and early 1920s, architect Lloyd Greer designed two Prairie style places of residence. The Fairview neighborhood is characterized by rectangular blocks of irregular size set at an angle to the blocks running through the heart of Valdosta. North-south streets are shorter than east-west streets. Lots on the north side of River Street are twice as deep as their frontage. Wells Street has large lots, while the eastern half of Central Avenue and Floyd Street blocks are divided into relatively small lots. Large lot size indicates possible early ownership of property, and smaller lots are associated with rental property.
Houses are generally set close to the street regardless of lot depth. Houses on River Street, Central Avenue, and Floyd Street were built close together due to narrow street frontages. Arrangement is not uniform, but houses are consistently spaced. The north side of River Street is more densely developed with an average street frontage of less than eighty feet per lot. Covering an area which consists of one entire block and parts of four others, the Fairview district is formed primarily of wood-frame houses. They vary in size and style, with small one-story cottages, moderately sized one-story Georgian plans, and massive two-story houses from a variety of styles, including Queen Anne Victorian, Prairie style, Bungaloid, and the vernacular one-story Georgian plan so common in south Georgia. The craftsmanship is excellent in these larger houses. Much attention is paid to details— turned spindle posts, gingerbread trim, stained-glass windows, transom windows with sidelights at front entrances, elaborately tiled fireplaces, fish-scale wood siding and others. The Queen Anne Victorian residence at 303 Wells Street contains most of these details, and they are beautifully put together to form an excellent example of the style. Though older, the house at 206 Wells Street also contains these elements. Most of the houses were constructed in the period from 1880 to 1915, evidenced by the wood-frame, Victorian-influenced residences. A more "modern" style is also present in the two previously mentioned Prairie-style houses. These houses contain less ornamentation, more horizontal emphasis and lower pitched roofs. The 208 Wells Street house has a plaster-over-wood-frame construction. At 312 River Street, stucco was used on the exterior. The Bungaloid style is present in the 400 West Central Avenue house. Also stucco covered, the house has a low-pitched gabled roof with exposed rafters and brackets, irregular floor plan, and nine-over-one windows. Even with the addition of the more modern residences, the overall appearance of the district suggests late nineteenth-century Victorian.
The most distinctive landscape characteristic in Fairview are the remnants of the old Strickland pecan grove. Pecan trees appear throughout the neighborhood and extend beyond its boundaries. According to Mrs. Paul (Nell) Myddleton, Sr., the large sycamore tree in front of 416 River Street is the last remaining of a line of sycamore trees which once lined River Street. Other large trees are scattered throughout the area. They include huge oaks on Wells Street, redbuds and dogwoods lining Central Avenue, and oaks which extend from Varnedoe to Oak streets on River Street. There are several large magnolias, camphor trees, and many old palm trees. Large distinctive cedar trees are found at 206 Wells, the corner of River and Wells and the corner of River and Oak streets. Most yards are open with shrubbery planted around the houses or scattered in the yards. The J.T. Roberts home at 206 Wells Street is an exception. There are many varieties of camellias, azaleas, and day lilies. At the rear of the house is a very large garden with large palms, pecans, oaks, and Japanese magnolias. Very few pine trees are found in this neighborhood. There are several vacant lots on Wells Street which are relatively clear of underbrush due to a clean-up campaign initiated by the Fairview Neighborhood Association. The non-historic school building between River Street and Central Avenue will soon be demolished to allow for the creation of a public park, which will restore the property to its original use. Sidewalks exist along most streets with the exception of Floyd Street and Varnedoe Street. An unusual section of hexagonal stone sidewalk is found in front of 401 River Street. The relatively small lot size and large house size allow for little front, rear, or side yards. The lots north of River Street are large enough to allow for outbuildings, however, and most are located very close to the rear of the houses.
One major strength of the neighborhood is its sparsity of non-historic buildings. Located at 405 River Street is a residence which is non-historic. At one time, the structure was a historic property, but after a serious fire, the second story was removed and the exterior changed extensively. Between 405 and 411 Central Avenue is an intrusion—a low, concrete-block building which is used as a warehouse. It has a low-pitched roof, aluminum windows, and asbestos siding. The dilapidated school building mentioned above is also a non-historic structure.
The Land Lottery of 1820 opened for white settlement a large area of south Georgia. Irwin County was one of the counties created in 1818 in the Creek Indian Land Cession that was distributed in the 1820 Lottery.
In 1821, the first settlers moved into the area now known as Lowndes County. Lowndes had been created from the southern half of Irwin County by the General Assembly in 1825. In 1828, Franklinville was founded as the county seat, then moved to Lowndesville in 1833. Two years later, the county seat was moved to Troupeville at the fork of the Withlacoochee and Little Rivers.
The Atlantic and Gulf Railroad built tracks four miles south of Troupeville to avoid bridging two rivers. Recognizing the importance of the railroad, townspeople moved the county seat in 1860 to form Valdosta. Composed of 125 acres in the northeast corner of lot number 61, Eleventh District, Valdosta was divided into lots and sold to the public in 1860. The land was purchased from W.S. Wisenbaker.
The first house built in Fairview (as well as in the entire town) was the 1845 home at 206 Wells Street. Originally, the home was of very functional, two-story, salt-box-type construction and belonged to Lawrence Wisenbaker. The name "Fairview" first appeared in connection with this house when William Wisenbaker purchased it on August 29, 1863. The deed describes the Wisenbaker parcel as being in the "Village of Fairview," which was laid out immediately west of Valdosta. It was included within Valdosta upon the latter's incorporation. Fairview was also commonly referred to as "the pecan grove on River Street," according to an article dated May 16, 1896, from the Valdosta Daily Times. Some trees from the original grove still remain scattered throughout the neighborhood.
The period from 1880-1915 was one of economic success for Valdosta, partly because the town was the world's largest inland market for sea-island cotton. Fairview became popular as a residential site for many prosperous and powerful families. In 1875, the city council had the stumps removed from River Street, and they placed two dozen street lamps in Fairview and other prosperous areas. In 1885, the town purchased the private Valdosta Institute, establishing a public school system.
The year 1895 brought many changes. Stephen F. Fulghum (1857-1928), a Valdosta architect and contractor, became quite popular at this time. His work in Fairview gives the general character that one feels there today. In 1895, he designed and built the 416 River Street residence of Robert T. Myddleton, who had demolished his old home on the same site to replace it with a "handsome" two-story house to "be in harmony with the progressive spirit of Valdosta today."
As mayor of Valdosta from 1874-75, Myddleton exuded great influence over local citizens. Quite a few of the more prominent families began locating here. J.C. Hunt built his Fulghum-designed home at 402 River Street, and Dr. W.F. Monroe commissioned the architect for the outstanding Queen Anne Victorian residence at 303 Wells Street.
John T. Roberts bought the old Wisenbaker house in 1895 and commissioned Fulghum to remodel the structure. It was then that the Victorian additions and details were added. Roberts served four terms as mayor of Valdosta from 1906-1914.
Fairview was actually quite popular as a home for politicians and government officials. Robert T. Myddleton, mentioned previously, was also the clerk of the Superior Court from 1878 to 1903. His son, R.B. Myddleton, who lived at 412 River Street, was also clerk of the Superior Court from 1908-1919. Judge John G. Cranford, a law graduate of the University of Georgia, was mayor from 1895 to 1897 and served as city recorder, a justice of the peace, and judge of the Superior Court for Lowndes County. Cranford lived at 418 River Street. Captain Jeremiah Wells, who lived in the 206 Wells Street house before J.T. Roberts, was a Civil War veteran who served as Valdosta's mayor from 1881 to 1882. He was also a Georgia representative for Colquitt County in 1864. Wells was honored by having his street of residence named for him. James 0. Varnedoe of 404 Central Avenue (originally the house was on Varnedoe Street) was mayor from 1877-1878, and he also served on the city council several times. He was a county commissioner from 1895 to 1897 and served as postmaster for fifteen and one-half years. Varnedoe headed the Valdosta Videttes, a military company. Known as Company B, Fourth Regiment of Infantry of the Georgia Volunteers in the Spanish American War, Varnedoe was elected captain. It has been stated by Valdosta local historian Susan McKey Thomas that if this neighborhood had not been entitled "Fairview," then "Mayor's Row" would have been most appropriate.
Other influential Valdostans lived in Fairview, including those prominent in business and education. J.W. Wilkinson, the builder of a railroad from Valdosta to Madison, Florida, resided at 116 Wells Street. His daughter, Adair, married future Georgia Governor Hugh M. Dorsey in 1911 in this house. Turner Rockwell, who lived at 400 River Street, was managing editor of the Valdosta Daily Times from 1920 to 1966. J.T. Roberts of 206 Wells Street was not only mayor, but also owned a harness and buggy business and had the first Buick agency in Valdosta. Dr. W.F. Monroe, who lived in the Queen Anne house at 303 Wells Street, owned the first pharmacy in Valdosta and was the first druggist to hold a degree in pharmacy. The Wachovia Drug Store was located downtown in the Converse Building, designed by Stephen Fulghum. Dr. Monroe is credited with the patent of "666 Tonic," a quinine based medication used in the treatment of malaria. Originally manufactured by the Monticello Company in Jacksonville, Florida, the tonic is still sold today.
Captain Jeremiah Wells, a mayor of the city, also owned a downtown saloon, the "Star Bar," which thrived with business, according to Mrs. Thomas. Francis Marion Curry, who built the 400 River Street house, was owner of the Curry Wholesale Grocery Company on South Patterson Street. Mrs. Florence Cashaen Hunt, who built the 402 River Street house, owned a livery stable and saloon in downtown Valdosta.
Fairview was the location of the Valdosta Institute. Professor S.M. Varnedoe founded the private school in 1866. The school was opened in a one-story house on Varnedoe Street until six Valdostans purchased it in 1885; then a new brick building was constructed in 1894, when it was authorized as a public school by the Georgia General Assembly. Located between Varnedoe and Oak streets, the school had a considerable impact on the neighborhood due to lack of housing. Students attended school here from other towns and needed places of residence. Some residences took in boarders, both students and teachers. J.A. Dasher, an enterprising businessman, built several rental houses in the neighborhood, including some of those on Floyd Street. The one-story home which had housed the school was moved to Central Avenue, and a second story was added in 1906 by Luther Scott. James O. Varnedoe, S.M. Varnedoe's son, lived here in the interim period.
The neighborhood continued to develop residentially. The City of Valdsota recognized the area and created a park for the residents from the old Strickland pecan orchard in 1906. From around this time until the late teens and early twenties, Fairview remained basically unchanged.
In 1917, Abiel Winn, first president of the Valdosta Country Club, commissioned Lloyd Greer (1885-1952) to design and build the "modern" Prairie-style residence at 208 Wells Street. This is the first private residence designed by Greer, who would become quite in demand in Valdosta and the surrounding area. In 1923, he designed the Diogenes Ingram residence at 312 River Street. Ingram owned the Ingram Drug Company. Mrs. Ingram served as chairperson of the local Democratic Party and was a member of the Colonial Dames, the Daughters of the American Revolution, and the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Around the same time, the little bungalow on Central Avenue was constructed. This illustrates the fact that Fairview remained attractive as a place of residence for decades and even experienced a resurgence of growth.
Few changes occurred in Fairview for years until the construction of the USO building in 1941 on the site of the city park, which was formed in 1906. Valdosta's expansion moved north, and some of the properties fell into disrepair. Large homes were subdivided into rental apartments and some structures were abandoned and vandalized. Due to the neighborhood's location, it was spared the most destructive force that befell Valdosta, that of the late-1950s and early-1960s urban renewal. Approximately thirty homes south and east of the area were destroyed due to urban renewal, but the central core of Fairview was left untouched. Hill Avenue was widened and U.S. Highway 94 was rerouted from River Street to Hill Avenue.
In late 1977, Charles Wilson, a Valdosta State College professor, bought the Greer-designed house at 208 Wells Street and began restoration. Other young professionals became aware of the aesthetic and economic benefits of restoration and moved into the area. One such person, David Sutton, who is a planner at the South Georgia Area Planning and Development Commission, purchased the Queen Anne house and began restoration. Because of his position at the Area Planning and Development Commission, Sutton has been an influence on the other residents to look to the future, thereby incorporating long-term planning for the neighborhood goals.
Fairview residents were instrumental in the formation of the Valdosta Heritage Foundation in 1980, and in each year since then, a tour of homes in Fairview and other areas of Valdosta has been held, giving added impetus to the restoration/preservation movement. A neighborhood land use plan was formed, the Fairview Neighborhood Association was created, and the residents succeeded in changing the zoning from Multi-family Residential to Historic Neighborhood/Residential Professional in late 1982.
† Kenneth H. Thomas, Jr., Historian, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Historic Preservation Section, Fairview Historic District, Lowndes County, GA, nomination document, 1984, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.