The Annie de Prairie Appleby Branch Library will be one of the featured homes on the 2014 Summerville Tour of Homes. Saturday, October 18-Sunday, October 19
If one type of architecture could be singled out as indicative of the Old South, the Greek Revival style would immediately come to mind. Derived of classical form, Greek Revival has an almost confectionary quality, but a stateliness all the same. Of the three orders, Doric, Ionic and Corinthian, the Annie de Prairie Appleby Branch Library is best described as a neoclassical adaptation of the Doric order. Proportion and ratio are fundamental principles of classical architecture, and Appleby Library, also known as the Montgomery Place is a lovely example of such perfect arrangement. Painted a crisp, uniform white, the wood frame structure boasts twelve fluted Doric columns, which symmetrically flank both the north and south facades. The tapered columns extend the full height of both stories, and support a substantial architrave, through which six double-hung, sash windows look out on a lawn abundant with antique boxwoods, old growth hardwoods, and a recently donated Italianate fountain.
Local lore suggests the structure was built circa 1830 by Judge Benjamin Warren. Situated on the corner of Walton Way and Johns Road, at the Western edge of what was once a vast pine barren, the home was among the earliest found in Old Summerville, a hilltop community designed in the 1780s by George Walton, signer of the Declaration of Independence, John Milledge, former governor of Georgia, and Thomas Cumming. During much of the nineteenth century, the area became the destination of affluent Augustans who desired an inland escape from the oppressive heat and humidity of city neighborhoods situated just steps away from the Savannah River; at a higher elevation, and verdantly wooded, Summerville offered a reprieve from the stagnant summer months of the riparian low lands.
The Warren family was the first of four families to own the home, and indeed the house served as a summer residence, as Benjamin Warren also owned a magnificent home in downtown Augusta on the Southeast corner of Greene and Sixth streets, which has since been torn down, and a plantation at Bedford, which includes much of what we now know as National Hills. Judge Benjamin Warren was a notable figure among the Augusta elite; with considerable business and political acumen, he was actively involved in the Whig Party, and in the construction of the Augusta Canal. Warren owned the 200 acres on which the Confederate Powder Works was built, served as a Richmond County Probate Court Judge, and served on the board of directors for the Georgia Railroad. Judge Warren died on March 31, 1870 and was buried in the family cemetery near the present day Augusta National.
Following his death, the home was sold to Janet Blair Montgomery, widow of W.W. Montgomery, and remained in the Montgomery family until it was sold to former Augusta mayor, William P. White on October 1, 1919, and following his death, sold to Scott B. Appleby on October 22, 1928. As Mr. Appleby himself once aptly stated, the home should be known as “the Montgomery House” because it was associated for so many years with the Montgomery family, particularly Anna Montgomery. A story handed down through the years tells of a catastrophic fire which destroyed the Montgomery home while the entire family attended Sunday service at St. Paul’s Church. Upon returning, the family found their home a smoldering ruin, and shortly thereafter acquired the house on Walton Way. Whether the story is true remains a mystery. However, it is known that following her husband’s death, Janet Montgomery moved from Spring Hill on Butler Creek to Summerville to be near her mother. She and her children lived in a sand hills cottage on the southwest corner of Milledge Road and Pickens Road, until she purchased Appleby. For years, the house passed through a succession of hands, but remained in the Montgomery family until 1919. General Edward Montgomery, grandson of James Gardner Montgomery, one of the last of the family to own the home, was born in an upstairs bedroom, and recalled vivid memories of food being served from the outside kitchen and of playing with friends on the palatial lawns.
Scott B. Appleby bought the house from May White, the widow of William P. White in 1928, and immediately gifted the home to his wife, Annie de Prairie. Although Mr. Appleby made several alterations to the home, ones mostly of comfort and convenience, like the addition of bathrooms, closets, and a kitchen, its architectural integrity was never compromised. The upper gallery rail, which was added to the house by Mr. Appleby, synchronizes with the elegant design of the columns at the lower floor level. The stair rails are of the same style. The home remained with the Appleby family until 1954 when it was gifted by Scott B. Appleby to the city of Augusta to serve as the Annie de Prairie Appleby Branch Library in honor and memory of his late wife.
On Monday, May 30, 1955, during the dedication ceremony, Scott B. Appleby with his son, James Scott Appleby marked the occasion as, “one of deep, emotional significance” for his family. He said his late wife, Annie de Prairie Appleby, loved Augusta and its people “and her spirit will always be with this library.”
This year celebrates the 60th year of the Annie de Prairie Appleby Branch Library, and marks the advent of “Evenings in the Appleby Gardens,” a summer concert series which continues, rain or shine, to the present day.
Georgia Heritage Room
Augusta-Richmond County Public Library
Erick Montgomery—Historic Augusta
Winter, Mary Carter. Classic Beauty Characterizes Appleby House on Walton Way. The Augusta Chronicle, Sunday, April 25, 1954, Section C, Page 1.
Appleby Library Branch is Deeded to City, County. The Augusta Chronicle, May 31, 1955, Page 21.
The Appleby—Summerville’s Library. Summerville Post, Volume 9, Number 3, July 1984.
Jones, Charles C. Memorial History of Augusta, Georgia, D. Mason and Co., 1890.
Callahan, Helen. Summerville: A Pictorial History, 1993.
Appleby Library Brochures