The City of Augusta is located along the Savannah River which directly contributed to Augusta's early growth and served as a source for travel and trade. At one point Augusta became the second largest inland cotton market in the world. Unfortunately progress was interrupted multiple times by periodic flooding of the river (late 1800s to early 1900s) that damaged the downtown business district as well as the homes of residents.
In 1908 the City of Augusta Forces built a levee (dirt and rocks) to protect the City from flooding, (by hand with mules for six years) but in 1929 the most significant flooding occurred which came over the existing levee structure and severely flooded downtown once again. In 1936, a Flood Control Act was passed and the Corps of Engineers rebuilt the levee, by mandate, to the height that it is now. Then, in the early '50s, Clark Hill Dam was constructed up river to control river levels as well as provide a source of power for the CSRA.
Economic Response the Levee
For over 50 years the levee served to protect the City, but slowed trade and commerce and actually became a psychological barrier between the people and the water. Industrial development moved south and west due to the large structure and actually prevented construction along its bank, which left a pristine, unspoiled shoreline. The downtown business district of Augusta thrived up until the mid '70s when two million sq. ft. of shopping malls opened on the outskirts of town. Shock waves were felt and mass exodus of merchants began leaving the downtown area to respond to consumer demands.
What Would Become of Augusta?
The River then, was still blocked by the levee with little or no activity in the downtown area. It was then that the City fathers had to answer a question: Is there a place for a downtown urban center or is downtown Augusta a part of the past?