Dublin’s Building Boom of 1905


There was once a saying in Dublin that Dublin, Georgia was “the only city in Georgia that’s doublin’ all the time.”  The city’s boosters boasted the rapid growth of the Emerald City, whose population grew from a few hundred in 1880 to several thousand by the end of the first decade of the Twentieth Century.  A century ago, the city was growing by leaps and bounds as it became one of the top twelve population centers in Georgia.

When the mortar between the bricks of the Carnegie Library was just barely dry, plans were being made to upgrade other public and private buildings within the city.   Dublin’s City Hall, an unpretentious two-story building at the western end of town, was not in keeping with the new metropolitan spirit sweeping the community. The city council chose the former Hilton Hotel across from the courthouse on the northern side of the square for a more appropriate facility.  The new building was actually a remodeling of an old hotel built by G.S. Hooks, first known as the “Hooks House.”  In keeping with the tradition of the times, hotels were named after their operators.  The hotel, which bore a strong resemblance to a fortress with Spanish influences,  was later named the “Hilton Hotel” for its owner Attys P. Hilton, making it one of the first, if not the first, Hilton Hotels in America.

On the first floor were offices of the Chief of Police, the Clerk of Council, the city electrician, the fire department, the city physician, and six five by ten feet jail cells.  The second floor contained the  Mayor’s office, the city council chamber, fireman’s quarters, and a 2100 sq. ft. courtroom with a sloping floor.    Atop the building was a fire bell.    The city was divided into four quadrants.  When a call came into the fire department, a fireman quickly ascertained in which quadrant the fire was located. Someone ascended to the roof and signaled the town by a corresponding number of rings.  The alarm being sounded, nearly everyone rushed to the scene. Usually there was always someone first on the scene who climbed on the roof and began chopping holes.  Not realizing the folly of their good-hearted efforts, the holes accelerated the flames, resulting in a motto being penned on the fire department, “we never lose a chimney.”   The building was used until the late 1950s when the City Hall was moved to its present location.  The old building was razed for a parking lot for county employees.

Across the courthouse square on the site of still another county parking lot was the Laurens County Jail.  Built sometime in the late 1800s, the hoosegow became unfit even for the most depraved fiends.  Local Methodist minister and part time architect George C. Thompson was hired to superintend the work.  The jail was one story high with thirteen two-man cells placed one over another.  There was one separate cell for women with a separate bath room.  On the upper row of cells was a special cell reserved for those who were condemned to hang.  In order to facilitate their executions, no longer held in public after John Robinson’s hanging in 1901, prisoners were placed on a trap door that was dropped as a reminder to those in adjoining cells of a similar fate if they committed a capital offense. The jailor’s residence was placed above the jail.  New columns were placed on the portico and the roof line was improved.  The jail was used by the county until 1963 when the current courthouse was completed.

While the members of the First Baptist Church were still formulating plans to build a new church, the members of the Christian Church hired A.C. Bruce of Atlanta to design their first church on the corner of North Jefferson and East Gaines Streets (now the site of the offices of Jefferson Street Baptist Church).  The 57 foot by 65 foot eight thousand dollar stone building featured a tower on the front right corner with entrances on both streets.  In the rear of the church were the Sunday school rooms, parlor, pastor’s study and dressing rooms.  The Sunday school rooms could be opened into the sanctuary, increasing its capacity  to seven hundred people. The beautiful structure was used until the late 1950s until it was torn down for the location of First Federal Savings and Loan Association.

Rev. George C. Thompson was busy in 1905.  With the aid of his two new assistants, S.M.  Golden of New York and Arthur Smith of LaGrange, Thompson was hired to design and supervise the building of a new elementary school in the northeast section of the city.  The school, known as Johnson Street School for the street upon which it was located, was a two-story building which was used until the early 1950s when it was replaced by a modern brick structure.  When school board members decided to build a new school on Saxon Street several years later, they withdrew bid offers and decided to save money by using Thompson’s plans for the sister school, which was also used until the early 1950s when it was also replaced by a modern building.

Dublin’s tallest structure to date, the Brantley Building, was completed in the spring of 1905.  Rev. Thompson designed the three-story structure to house three twenty-five foot wide stores on the first floor.  The corner store was first occupied by the Oconee Pharmacy with the middle store being occupied by C.W. Brantley’s Buggy Company.   On the second floor was a buggy repository and eleven professional office spaces.  A third floor was added to house the lodge of Laurens Lodge No. 75 F & AM. The lodge’s quarters featured a lodge room with inlaid gold Masonic emblems in a
pressed metal ceiling, four regalia rooms, and eleven more professional offices.    At one time the building office actually housed the Lyric Theatre, a small silent movie picture house.  For most long time Dubliners, the building is known as the Lovett &and Tharpe Building, which was occupied by the legendary hardware company from the early 1950s to the early 1980s.  Today, the building houses the Sleep and Recline store.

The Dublin Courier Dispatch completed its first permanent building at 120 S. Jefferson Street in 1905.  The two-story five-thousand square foot building featured a business office and stationery department on the front of the first floor. The editorial room was on the front of the second floor with the linotype machinery and composing rooms in the rear of the second story.  A large skylight in the center of the building illuminated both floors in a time when electric service was still primitive and unreliable by today’s standards.  Within a week, work on the adjoining Taylor-Coleman Pharmacy was completed.   The buildings were occupied for many years by Central Office Suppliers and Strange Drug Company respectively.

The M.D. & S. Railroad began construction on a new depot on the north side of the tracks on S. Jefferson Street in the fall of 1905.  That building was used until the early 1960s when it was razed.

All over town, new houses were being built.  The year 1905 was a good year for Dublin and today, a century later, the city is still enjoying a building boom, albeit that in 1905 you could have built every building in Dublin for the cost of the new Kroger grocery store.