Neighborhood of the Month:
Reese Street Historic District
The Reese Street Historic District was settled by African Americans after the Civil War, and is one of Georgia’s oldest African American neighborhoods.It became an important educational center for the black community in Athens. The Reese Street neighborhood was home to teachers, physicians, lawyers, and laborers. Well-known professionals such as Dr. Ida May Hiram (the first African American woman to pass the Dental Board exams in Georgia) and Dr. William H. Harris (a physician, politician, and philanthropist) also resided in the district.
The neighborhood includes architecture of various popular styles in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries including Queen Anne, Vernacular Gothic, and Craftsman. Eleven historic house types are found within the 6 square block district. The residential resources provide many good representative examples of modest vernacular house types including the saddlebag, shotgun, “L”-shaped cottage, and square plan with pyramidal roof. They illustrate how Victorian Eclectic and Craftsman detailing are applied to some houses. These are building types typically associated with the black community of which there are few intact examples in Athens.
The area is comprised of mostly residential buildings but includes a few non-residential historic buildings including the Hill First Baptist Church, Athens High and Industrial School (the first four year public high school for African Americans in the state of Georgia), and the Knox School (the first school in Athens for black students). However, the Knox School has since been demolished.
Harris House – 446 Reese Street
The Harris House, built in 1890, was home to Dr. William H. Harris, one of Athens’ most prominent early black physicians and philanthropists. When Harris opened his practice in 1893, there were only 27 black doctors in Georgia. Harris was a co-founder of the Georgia State Medical Association in Augusta, served the Athens community, and was a principal organize and largest stockholder in the E.D. Harris Drug Company, the first African American owned drug store in Athens. In 1912, Harris founded the Improved Order of Samaritans to provide assistance for funeral expenses for black citizens. The Harris House is a two-story Vernacular Gothic structure with dormers and a full front porch with some tracery as key features.
Reese Street School – 1913
Located on the corner of Church and Reese Streets this two story wood framed building served as the Reese Street School when it was establishment in 1913 and in 1919 it was certified by the state and renamed Athens High and Industrial School. This two story wood framed building was Georgia’s first four-year public high school for African-American students. The African-American school later had several locations before the school system began integration in 1963. It has four over four double hung sash windows, and a central entrance with sidelights and triangular pediment with two slender column supports. Today the building is owned by a Masonic Lodge.
Hill First Baptist Church – 1893
Hill First Baptist Church is located on the northeast corner of Pope and Reese Streets. Built in 1893 it is a vernacular church with Gothic details including a modified cross plan, a steep sloping gable roof, a two and a half story gable with a steeple, and lancet arched windows. Hill First Baptist Church is the oldest African American church in the Athens community with the congregation dating back to 1867 when they split from Athens Baptist Church. It has been a cornerstone of the Reese Street District. The church is a contributing building to the Reese Street district on the National Register of Historic Places.
This home is typical of many in the Reese Street neighborhood, which consists of primarily one-story vernacular structures built in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This bright blue home is similar to other simplified Victorian cottages in the neighborhood. It includes typical details such as a front porch with thin and detailed columns, a pitched roof, asymmetry, and use of bright colors. Large front picture windows like the one shown here are also common in the district, but usually in Craftsman Style homes.