Photo: Malthus Ward House, Athens, ca. 1830s, located at 126 Dearing Street, Athens in the Dearing Street Historic Distrit. The District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. Photographed by wikipedia username:Patmcalex (own work), 2012, [cc-3.0], via wikimedia commons, accessed October, 2022.
The Dearing Street Historic District was part of the 433 acres near the North Oconee river and the Cedar Shoals, bought by John Milledge in 1801 and given to the trustees of the University of Georgia for a site for the University. Milledge bought the tract for $1,000 from Daniel Easley, who had bought it from William Few, it being part of a tract granted to Few in 1785 by the state. After 39 acres was set aside for a campus, the trustees sold the remainder over a period of half a century, to raise money for the operation of the school. The trustees therefore had surveys made and streets and lots laid off. The original surveys are lost, but the lot numbers are preserved in a composite map made in 1852 by William L. Mitchell of his own (1844) and earlier surveys.
The Dearing Street area was laid off in three successive surveys. The first, made by Major James Meriwether circa 1830, platted a section west of Pulaski Street, including Finley, Pope, Church, Dearing and Waddell as far west as Church. In 1833, a survey by E. L. Thomas laid out streets and lots from Church Street as far west as Rockspring Street. The southernmost street in the District was Waddell, and the last tier of lots were those on the south side of Waddell. Then, in October, 1844, Mitchell's survey, extending to the south and southwest borders of the University's tract, completed the platting of it. He laid out no more streets but divided the remaining land into large lots of about 16 acres each. The Dearing-Wilkins house and the area south of the bend in Milledge and along Henderson Avenue were included in the Mitchell survey. To this day there are triple-long blocks between Waddell and Baxter because the orderly progression of streets 200 feet apart ceased after the Thomas survey. Eventually a little track, called Bass Street (after a landowner) on the 1852 map, became a major artery of today, Baxter Street,
The streets were platted in a north-south grid; Milledge, however, make; a bend to stay in the center of the ridge* The square or block between streets was designated a lot, each lot containing four acres less the small amount taken off the edges for streets. Any smaller lot was designated a fractional lot; these occurred where lots were subdivided after the initial sale and where the grid of the surveys met the diagonal borders of the University's tract.
A street might exist on paper for years before being actually cut through the forest. Milledge, though existing on paper from 1833, was probably not cut through until the 1850s. THis northern segment of Milledge was not the early Watkinsville Road; that was South Lumpkins Street, as shown by Mitchell's map. Below Five Points the nomenclature is confused.) It is true that William Carr bought lots on Milledge in 1845 and put a frame house there, year not known; but that property could be approached through farm lanes such as Bass Street. But all the big 19th century houses on Milledge date from the mid-1850's or later, as did the demolished Dearing-DuBose house. Furthermore, the lots on the west end of Bearing sold much later than those farther east; the University did not sell lot 41, bordered by Bearing, Milledge, Broad and Harris, till 1849 (to Young Harris), nor lot 36, across Harris Street from the first lot, till 1850 (to William N. White). Whether Broad Street existed before the surveys is unknown, i.e., Broad Street west of Pulaski; the earliest road westward, the Lawrenceville Road, followed what is now Oglethorpe Avenue from the Jefferson Road. Finley Street except for the block from Broad to Bearing, was probably not cut through till after 1886. In that year the John W. Nicholson home place, which extended from Hull Street to the east edge of Finley, was subdivided. Harris was not cut through to Henderson until about the same time. The latter, as noted, exists because Carr gave land for it. Pope south of Waddell was cut late in the 19th century, and Morningside, in the 20th century.
The University tract was somewhat the shape of a double-bladed ax. From a point slightly south of the intersection of Waddell and Pope, the boundaries sloped southeasterly on the one hand, and south-southwesterly on the other. Beyond these, as beyond the other boundaries, the land had been sold by the initial grantees to a number of settlers, and in the mid-century was all in forest or farms. Even as late as the 1870's, Morris says in his Strolls About Athens, the land beyond the Alfred Bearing house was all open country.
The Lehmann-Bancroft-Land house and the Bloomfield-Talmage house were both sited on large, irregular parcels assembled from purchases beyond the University tract to which fractional and whole University lots were added. In the former case it was Professor Lehmann who assembled his little farm; in the latter, Young Harris, who sold to Bloomfield.
Albon Chase was owner and editor of The Southern Banner, while Wm. L. Jones was publisher of The Southern Cultivator. Two authors whose books tell us much of what we know of 19th century Athens lived in the District: A. L. Hull, author of Annals of Athens 1801-1901, and Sylvanus Morris, who wrote Strolls About Athens During the Early Seventies.
H. C. White was professor of chemistry and head of the School of Agriculture at the University in the late 19th century. Leon Charbonnier, an owner of the Dearing-Wilkins house, was professor of engineering and the designer of Moore Hall on campus. The contractor for Moore was another owner of that house, M. B. McGinty.
R. L. Bloomfield was agent and principal owner of the Athens Factory (textiles), which after the Civil War bought the old Confederate Armory and combined the two sites on the North Oconee river into Athens Manufacturing Company. He built the old Saint Mary's Episcopal Church for the mill workers and was a founder of Emmanuel Parish. He built a little chapel on his lot (where the house at 397 South Church is now) for Sunday School for neighborhood children.
David C. Barrow was professor of Mathematics at the University and then Chancellor (1906-1925). Mrs. Mary Lipscomb was a teacher and principal at Lucy Cobb Institute. Frank A. Lipscomb, Allen Talmage, Charkes A. Phinizy, John J. Wilkins, and B. F. Hardeman were all prominent businessmen.
Finally, it may be noted that these streets did not have names until 1859,
In the District lived many persons who figured in the history of Athens. John A. Cobb, who did not live there but who built a house in it, was the father of Howell and T. R. R. Cobb, both famous not only in Athens but in the history of Georgia. Malthus Ward and William Lehmann were among the handful of devo/fed teachers who constituted the faculty of the University in the 1830s. Ross Crane is remembered as the builder of the First Presbyterian Church and of the fine brick house on Pulaski Street, now SAE fraternity; and the firm of Carlton and Crane built several University buildings. The name of Young Harris is still well known because of the Methodist college in north Georgia, renamed in his honor following his substantial gifts to it. Young Harris was for years the secretary and principal officer of the Southern Mutual Insurance Company. He gave generously to Emory at Oxford and other Methodist enterprises and missions and helped through college young men wishing to be ministers. Young Harris Memorial Methodist Church in Athens is so named following the request of the minister, Rev. Joe Dunaway, who gave the church its first site; he was one of the young men Harris had helped.
The distinctive character of the Dearing Street Historic District derives partly from its narrow streets, old hardwoods, middle-aged and old houses. It also derives from its consistency; while apartments have entered the District, its interior is still completely residential, offices being confined to the boundary street of Milledge Avenue. Its character is also essentially middleclass; it is homey and comfortable. While the buildings range from cottages to large houses, there are no mansions, except, again, on Milledge. The very wealthy preferred the major avenues for their show places. Within a frame of hady streets, the District offers a sampler of styles in domestic architecture from about 1820 through the early decades of this century. It offers, as well, a physical reminder of many of the families who shaped Athens in that period.
† Adapted from" Mrs. Patricia Irvin Cooper, researcher, National Register of Historic Places, Dearing Street Historic District, nomination document, 1974, Washington, D.C.
Broad Street • Church Street South • Dearing Street • Finley Street South • Harris Street South • Henderson Avenue • Pope Street South • Waddell Street