Sometimes there are better ways to step back in time than by looking through history books. An up-close and personal look at artifacts from bygone days can offer a peek at the past as well, and history buffs will get a chance to do just that at a “show and tell” program in Harlem.
Through newly archived historical documents, an upcoming program will give a glimpse of life in Harlem at the turn of the 20th century. Featuring bank records and other documents from the early 1900s that were discovered last year, the event will give local residents a chance to discover what life was like in Columbia County around the turn of the 20th century.
The program, sponsored by the Harlem Arts Council, will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 22 at the new Harlem Library. It should last about an hour, and will include a presentation by Nancy Glaser, executive director of the Augusta Museum of History, a panel discussion and a question-and-answer session.
Glaser has helped organize and preserve the documents. Panel members include Phil Turner, a Harlem resident and historian; Bobby Culpepper, former mayor and a Realtor at DeFoor Realty; county Commissioner Bill Morris and Judy McAlhany, an Augusta University archivist.
Memorabilia include bank records, legal documents, fire insurance tables, handwritten Harlem Telephone Company records, merchandise receipts from Harlem’s old W.E. Hatchers & Sons dry goods store and a book from the 1920s of Georgia World War I dead that was found in pristine condition. Many of the records are from the Bank of Harlem, which was established in 1905 and became the Bank of Columbia County in 1910. The records were discovered in February of 2017 in the building where the Bank of Columbia County was located in the early 20th century.
“The documents included more than bank records because it seems other institutions such as the legal system deposited items there,” says Turner. “It was the only fireproof place in the county. The records paint a solid and informative picture of what Harlem was like 100 years ago.”
An electrician uncovered the documents at 225 North Louisville Street during renovations to the one-time bank building to become a DeFoor Realty office. The records had been stored in boxes in an attic, which had been concealed by a drop ceiling, above the bank vault in the building.
Some of the items already have been cleaned, organized and archived while others are still in “raw condition,” says Turner. He says the city hopes to receive a grant to continue the archiving efforts.
Some of the documents will be kept in the new library, he says, while others will be moved to a central location, probably in Appling.