THE OLD BECOMES
Martha LeSueur Nicholson,
Picture courtesy of Albany on
the Flint by Mary Ellen Bacon, shows the original
Bridge Hall as it was known in 1857.
Albany’s history lives on
in the newly restored Bridge House which opened
in August as the Albany Welcome Center. The long
awaited Center saw months of construction delays, but is
now welcoming visitors to Albany during the hours
of 9–5 Monday–Friday, 10–4 Saturday, and 12–4 Sunday.
We visited the Center for a
personal observation and were met at the door by a
friendly representative of the Visitors and
Convention Bureau who pointed out the various areas
to explore. There is a large display of a scale for
weighing cotton bales in the entry and pictures of
workers picking cotton in the fields. A miniature of the
Ray Charles fountain in Veteran’s Park
farther down the street graces the doorway. Other
displays portray the history of the building and other
places to visit in Albany and Southwest GA.
Many free brochures are available of local and area
attractions. We enjoyed browsing the gift shop of
Albany souvenirs which includes products from our
own AHS graduate,
Upstairs we found a
phenomenal view of the Flint River, Broad Ave.
bridge, and Turtle Park. A train chose that
moment to pass on the railroad trestle nearby making it
A large meeting room on the
second floor with a kitchen, modern AV equipment, and
large viewing screen will accommodate a crowd. The
beautiful pine wood floors were made from beams that
were taken from the old Flint River Textile Mill
before it was demolished, retaining even more Albany
Be sure to include a visit
to the Bridge House on your next trip to
Albany. You will be glad you did! Albany’s former
mayor, Paul Keenan, donated the property to the
county, and Joshua Brown, Albany Herald
reporter, gives an excellent account of the
building’s colorful history in this very interesting
article which I hope everyone will take the time to
read. I think you will enjoy it.
House has long, complex history ~
newly restored structure, courtesy The Albany Journal
ALBANY — Built in 1858 (accounts vary whether it was
1857 or 1858) along with the first bridge spanning the
Flint River in south Georgia, Albany’s Bridge House has
served in many capacities over the years.
From autoparts store to theater to meeting place,
the building initially served as a toll booth on the
west side of a bridge over the Flint River.
The building originally guarded a 930-foot
bridge that Albany founder Col. Nelson Tift
built to allow transportation of goods across
He owned the hand-operated ferry that
travelers had previously used to cross the
river, but built the bridge and Bridge House
because it was difficult for people crossing
the river to navigate the steep slopes on
either side of the Flint.
Tift asked county leaders — Albany was
then a part of Baker County — to build a
bridge spanning the river, but they
refused. He eventually built it at a
cost of $30,000.
A toll of 75 cents was charged for a
four-horse carriage, while livestock
were charged at two cents per head
for crossing the bridge. People
traveling by foot were allowed to
cross for free.
Several years after the bridge
was built, unrest concerning the
toll developed in the community
and may have resulted in the
burning of the bridge, though it
was rebuilt shortly thereafter.
The reconstructed bridge and
bridge house was sold to the
county for $20,000, though Tift
retained the land on either side
The bridge was designed by
master bridge builder Horace
King, a South Carolina native
and slave until he was freed by
an act of the Alabama
legislature in 1846. He also
served as foreman for the Bridge
On the first floor of the
building, one side served as
the tollkeeper’s quarters,
who reportedly sold liquor
to road-weary travelers and
the other side served as the
The second floor, known
as Tift’s Hall, served
as a theater for
traveling acting groups,
ballroom and meeting
hall, with a dais at one
end for performing
musicians or speakers.
The hall served as a
prominent location for
many of the community’s
Tift hired artists
from New York to
mural scenes in the
upper room, which
was open from one
end of the building
to the other. The
hall was widely
considered the most
decorated in the
state during the mid
of the time
performed at the
Laura Keen, Fay
for a time
as a meeting
the Ku Klux
the arch,” a
Empire Smithing eventually turned to dealing in auto repair, auto parts and scrap iron. The business’ name was later changed to Keenan Auto Parts Co. but was bought by General Parts Inc. in 1990.
In 2001, the Bridge House was the focal piece of an eminent domain battle between former Albany political figure Paul Keenan and Dougherty County, as the commission wanted to acquire the property as part of its Downtown Albany Master Plan.
Keenan eventually donated the building, an appraisal of which values it at $525,000, to the county, while the rest of his property on the block was acquired by Albany Tomorrow Inc. for development according to its downtown master plan and demolished.
The building has undergone several renovations during its 150-year history. The arched entry way was eventually squared off and the arch bricked over, though it has been restored as part of the latest renovation.
During the Civil War, its cellars were used as a packing house and the back yard used as a slaughter pen and livestock were pickled for the Confederate Navy.
of Albany Herald
Back to Top