Gertrude “Ma” Rainey Pridgett (1886-1939) is considered the “Mother of Blues.” Columbus, Georgia was her home which is where she was born.
She started performing by the age of 14 and began touring as part of vaudeville and minstrel shows. Known for her dynamic performances, Ma Rainey made a name for herself as she toured the country.
The Ma Rainey house, now a museum, was the home that Ma purchased for her mother and where she moved into upon her return to Columbus. Initially, the home was the typical shotgun that can still be seen in the neighborhood, but Rainey had a new two-story home built. She lived there until her death in 1939. The house was saved from demolition by neglect by committed Columbus preservationists. It was put on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) in 1992.
Ma Rainey rests in Porterdale Cemetery, which was once known as the Colored Cemetery. It was put on the NRHP in 1980.
Opened in 1924, the Liberty Theatre was a segregated theatre that hosted Ma Rainey and other Black artists. Rainey eventually purchased the theater. It was put on the NRHP in 1984.
Alma Thomas (1891-1978) was a Black artist known for her colorful and impressionist work. Born in Columbus, Georgia, she and her family lived there until she was sixteen. In 1907, they relocated to Washington, DC to escape the racial hostility and threats of violence that were directed towards the Black community at the hands of whites.
She was considered a member of the Washington School of Color. A lifelong art teacher, she was the first graduate of the art department at Howard University.
Built around 1879, William Yates built this Italianate in an area formerly known as Rivertown. By 1893, William Yates fell into financial trouble due to a national financial panic. James Jethro Jones eventually purchased the house from the bank in 1894. The home has been expanded twice.
If you’ve ever been to St. Simon’s, you’ve likely seen the iconic Hazel’s Cafe sitting close to the edge of the road. Proprietors Hazel and Thomas Floyd ran this cafe for decades. Their home still stands next to the cafe. Their final resting place is in Stranger’s Cemetery.
Built in 1894 as a one-story home, the Harville House is a fascinating example vernacular architecture. The second floor was added in 1904. Abandoned for decades, the home and property is still owned by Harville ancestors. If you decide to visit, you can only photograph from the road.
The Lyon Farmhouse, built around 1820 and restored in 2019, is considered one of the oldest remaining homes in Dekalb County, Georgia. Members of the Lyon Family occupied the home until 2007, even though ownership was transferred to the county in 2003. Prior to the end of the Civil War, the slave census records indicated that the Lyon family enslaved 17 people. After the Civil War, the freedmen and women of the Lyon family stayed in the area to start one of the oldest Black communities in the state. The community named Flat Rock served as an important support system to create a thriving community.
Notable descendants of the families who formed Flat Rock are Willie Gault (football player), Chris Tucker (comedian), and Warren Moon (football player).
This Queen Anne House was designed by architect, Charles Choate, who focused on designing buildings and homes in the South. Charles Madden was a Black railway clerk who worked his way up the ranks and was able to afford and contract a known architect to build his home. Tennille has the railroad that rights through town, and the tracks are a less than a bock from this home. It was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999.
Built as a home in 1885, Robert Allen Cates, the town’s postmaster, lived here with his family until he chose to make it into a general store. In 1938, the nearby church used it as a Sunday school. The building was recently restored. It’s a contributing building to the Glenn Springs Historic District.