The purpose of the Summerville Neighborhood Association is to protect and enhance the value, quality, and charm of our neighborhood.
Next time you drive around Summerville, take some time to stop and look around. It is the history and character of this neighborhood that draws us here. Newer, planned neighbor hoods across the country attempt to emulate the same sort of southern charm we live with every day. In condensed form, of course, with all new tree lined streets, picket fences, and front porches. First settled in the late 1700’s, Summerville has always been a laid back alternative to bustling downtown Augusta. Situated atop “the hill,” early Summerville residents enjoyed cooler breezes, and reportedly, an absence of mosquitoes and diseases. The Village of Summerville was incorporated in 1861 and petitioned the City of Augusta to be annexed in 1912.
The Summerville Neighborhood Association was formed in 1976 by a small group of concerned residents who realized that the historic character of our neighborhood was being eroded by progress. Early successes included a ght against a proposed expressway landing on Central Avenue (later relocated as the Calhoun Expressway), and saving a row of McDowell street houses from demolition. SNA members were also instrumental in drafting guidelines for use in renovating and restoring properties in Summerville and Augusta’s other historic neighborhoods.
In 1994, the City of Augusta established protected historic districts, subject to approval by voters in each district. Summerville residents voted to approve the new designation, and the historic guidelines became the standard for what to do and how to go about it in Summerville.
The preservation ordinance states that material and design changes that affect the outward appearance of properties within the historic district must be approved prior to starting work. Augusta’s ordinance is similar to those in Savannah and Charleston, and was actually patterned on a similar ordinance from Gettysburg, Virginia. Minor changes may be approved at “desk level” through the of ce of Planning and Zoning, but more involved changes must be approved by a review board called the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC). This board is appointed by city commissioners, with one member selected from each city ward and two members appointed by the state delegation. Approval of proposed improvements by HPC is a prerequisite to obtaining a building permit. In cases of proposed demolition, HPC review and approval is mandatory.
SNA supports the preservation ordinance, but is not directly represented on the HPC board. By design, the HPC is an independent body which is not af liated with any local group. SNA board members do regularly attend HPC meetings, however, in order to keep up with upcoming “progress” in the neighborhood. By the way, HPC meetings are open to the public, and happen every third Thursday of the month at 5:30 PM in the new Library downtown.
This ordinance has proven effective in shaping the way our neighborhood moves forward with the times. Without direction, we lose things that can’t be replaced. Sometimes, we end up with commercial buildings, like the former
day care at the corner of Katherine Street and Walton Way. New town homes will soon be built on the site, with plans approved by HPC, and influenced by the historic preservation guidelines.