Photo: Homes in the Water Street-River Side Drive Historic District, Augusta. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. Photographed by wikipedia username: Greg Hume, 2011, [cc-3.0]; commons.wikimedia.org, accessed October, 2022.
Upper Street has been traditionally the commercial axis of the town, with hotels at the intersection of Water Street [†] making the transition to the residential area that dominated the waterfront, preserving the breezes and views for the private citizens, rather than giving them up for the benefit of the proximity of commercial and industrial structures to the river, as was the case in many towns, particularly in the late 19th and 20th centuries.
There are no outstanding individual buildings of architectural merit or interest in the Water Street district, but as a group they demonstrate a considerable range of late 18th- and 19th-century residential architecture. The sequence begins with the two surviving log houses, including the Broshears house, of large logs, now the rear wing of the Tom Cline house, whose three-story brick back facing the river was built just before the Civil War and said to be the first three-story brick house in the area. The first story of the John Payne House, at the western limits of the district5 is of stone apparently originally a typical early stone house, although a curious upper story, mansarded on the front, was added later. Several of the rowhouses and other brick houses are of early type, with varying number of bays. They have fine brickwork, usually of Flemish bond on the facades, and several retain early interior woodwork including chair-railing, mantels, and other features. The wides almost square windows and wider spacing of openings characteristic of the early period gradually gave way to taller and narrower proportions toward the middle of the century.
There are no recognizably Greek Revival-influenced houses along Water Street, perhaps because the central portion was built up by the mid-century. A number of interesting Victorian villas are interspersed among the older houses, however, with much more varied plans and elevations. The earlier symmetry or regularity is broken up with recessed porches, projecting gabled pavilions, and bay windows. Openings are not only larger, especially taller, but also ornamented with hoodmolds and other trim. Aside from the Payne mansard, there is also a fine and elaborate concave mansard roof as the third story of the building number 15, which has Second Empire dormers. The most lively late Victorian house suggests the Stick Style, with siding running in different directions and at the corners, and all openings articulated. Even in these largest and latest designs, however, there is a good deal of restraint.
The district is limited to Front Street (now River Side Drive) itself and the properties back to the alley to the south of it. Some of the adjacent areas, to the south, particularly the site of Augusta College (which originally extended to the eastern blocks of Water Street) and included the surviving Methodist Episcopal Church building and the area around the public square toward the west, may well be nominated at a future date to the National Register.
There are also remnants of the commercial axis along Upper Street and a number of late 19th-century mansions interspersed with churches along Fourth Street at the southern border of the town, just below the hills. Individual buildings of historic and architectural interest are also scattered through the limited extent of the original town. But Water Street has the greatest concentration of early buildings and a definite character of its own that makes it appropriate to be considered as a unit at this time.
† Mrs. John S. Parker, Bracken County Representative, Water Street-River Side Drive Historic District,, nomination document, 1975, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
River Side Drive • Water Street