Photo: Blackshear-Scott home, circa 1880, located at 705 Gilmore Street, Waycross. The historic district was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. Photographed by user:Bubba73 (Jud McCranie), own work, 2015, [cc-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons, accessed June, 2023.
The earliest residential neighborhood of this young, south Georgia railroad center, the Waycross Historic District [†] roughly consists of the area bounded by Plant Avenue, Williams, Lee, Chandler and Stephens Streets. Formerly a forest, the neighborhood even today sports magnificent specimens of oak, palm and pine which handsomely compliment the district's wide, straight streets. Basically flat, in terms of terrain, the neighborhood is laid out in an irregular block pattern; that is to say, many of the original, large city blocks have been bisected by smaller, and in many cases, unpaved, streets which have created numerous square and rectilinear blocks much smaller than the original ones. As could be expected by tradition, the residential area historically tied to the lower income residents and formerly associated with the railroad workers, possesses the most hilly terrain and the fewest paved streets; that area in which the town's executive and professional-type people resided was established on the more flat, well-drained ground. Likewise, the housing, both in terms of size and decorative quality dissipates as one moves further away from the railroad tracks and the train depot.
Architecturally, the Waycross Historic District is well-represented by several styles of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, although Victorian elements are predominant throughout. In fact, the majority of houses in this area were probably built around 1880-1895.
Lee Street, named after General Robert E. Lee, forms the eastern-most boundary of the district and is typical of all the streets found in the community. It is extremely wide for a residential area, graciously planted and with sidewalks well set back from the curb line. The W. W. Beach House (1894) located at 405 Lee Street is still owned by a member of the Beach family, Miss Myrtis Beach. The house, standing on its original city block lot and surrounded by magnificent old magnolia trees (See photo #2) is executed in wood, whose pink and white paint has now weathered beautifully. The two-story house has a full porch with gingerbread trim, 2/2 floor-to-ceiling length windows, that are topped with stained glass and protected by full-length shutters, as well as double entrance doors, all arranged symmetrically on the first floor. The second floor has five 2/2 windows, also symmetrically arranged, that balance the composition. The hipped roof of the house, covered in green asphalt shingles and broken only by an extension of the front facade that reads as a pediment, is likewise balanced by two tall brick chimneys.
Atypical of those houses found on Lee Street, the Beach House stands out primarily in terms of its overall quality and individual character. This street is also the address for several of the area's churches, including the Seventh Day Adventist Church housed in a white clapboard building dating from 1914.
Another major north-south street in the historic district is Gilmore Street, the second paved street in Waycross. Similar to other streets in the community, this wide avenue sports many notable structures which are, in fact, not only representative of this street, but of the whole district.
Altogether, the Waycross Historic District is an excellent blend of turn of the century structures and even the "shot-gun" type worker's housing fits well into the scheme of the general community. Intrusions as they exist today are primarily those of mobile homes; however, these mobile homes are, as a rule, well sited and as such do not produce much visual interference within the neighborhood. Likewise, few contemporary structures are found within the area—the major ones being the First Methodist Church, on Gilmore, and a circa 1950's extension to the historic Central Baptist Church (1910) originally designed by a local architect, George Feltham. The enclosed map details all such intrusions.
The city of Waycross was created in 1872 and incorporated in March, 1874 by an act of the Georgia General Assembly. Founded as a railroad center, most of the original settlers of the town gathered to live in an area now known as "Old Waycross" which centered around Butler Street and along Plant Avenue. However, the first true residential area in the city to develop strictly as such was to be found in the Gilmore, Brunei and Lee Street section, now referred to as the Waycross Historic District.
Many of the major streets within the Historic District were among the city's first paved streets, signifying the relative importance of this neighborhood, and most, if^ not all, of the streets were at one time according to locals, Indian trails and Spanish bridle paths. Plant Avenue, named after Henry B. Plant, a local railroad magnate, was the first of the paved streets of Waycross. Shortly thereafter, Gilmore Street, the second most heaviest "line of travel" in the city, was paved. This street, one of Georgia's historic highways, has served (according to tradition) as an Indian trail, Spanish bridle path, train road and as part of the "Dixie Highway." Gilmore^became a thoroughfare from the time it was blazed through virgin swamp and forest; this was due in part to the fact that of all roads in the vicinity, this one was the most direct route leading to four noted trading posts in South Georgia. Gulf and Albany Streets followed Gilmore Street in becoming respectively the third and fourth paved streets. Brick pavers were initially used as the pavement material and remnants of this early surfacing can still be seen at some intersections within the district; these streets have since been covered with asphalt and crushed aggregate.
In the early days of Waycross, the present historic district was part of a large forest that was harvested by local settlers to provide much needed construction materials. As a growing railroad center, this wood brought substantial income to many of the local people and eventually, so much timber was harvested that large quantities could be shipped out to Savannah and other ports.
Only after much of the forest had been cleared away was the site divided up into small blocks and developed in a relatively consistent manner as the city's first "subdivision."
Rapidly becoming popular with local professional people and executives of the railroad, many of Waycross's most prominent doctors, lawyers, judges and the like have resided here.
† H. Lee Dunagan. Intern (Elizabeth Z. Macgregor. Architectural Historian, Consultant, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Waycross Historic District, nomination document, 1975, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
Chandler Street • Drane Street • Gilmore Street • Lee Street • Plant Avenue • Reed Street • Stephen Street • Williams Street