Floating a Preservation Plan Glynn Panel Wants Canal on Historic Register

By Dickson, Terry | The Florida Times Union, October 18, 1998 | Go to article overview

Floating a Preservation Plan Glynn Panel Wants Canal on Historic Register


Dickson, Terry, The Florida Times Union


BRUNSWICK -- A 13-mile canal that hasn't been used since

World War I may soon get a spot on the National Register of

Historic Places.

The Glynn County Commission has voted to seek the listing for

the Altamaha-Brunswick Canal, built in the early 1800s to carry

cotton and other goods between the Altamaha River and the Port

of Brunswick.

The canal has been neglected since early in the 20th century.

Through much of its length, it is choked by overgrown

vegetation, filled with dirt and blocked by fallen trees.

Glynn County Commissioner Geraldine Robertson, who prompted

commission action on the canal, said she is interested in

preventing further damage along the canal.

The county says it owns the canal, though segments of property

on both sides have been sold to homeowners, businesses and other

parties through the years.

Robertson said she wants to protect the canal by getting it on

the national register. That would ensure protection by the U.S.

Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers, she

said.

To place sites on the National Register of Historic Places,

applicants must complete for a federal agency called the

National Trust for Historic Preservation a detailed

questionnaire and provide documentation of the historical

significance, officials said.

Robertson said that should be easy because much of the

research was done around 1980 and remains available.

But today, much of the character of the canal has been lost.

On the lower reaches near Brunswick, it was filled with

hazardous waste by former owners of the LCP Chemicals-Georgia

Inc. plant, which is now an EPA Superfund site. The EPA cleaned

the canal of that waste, but replaced it with soil.

The waterway is also clogged with weeds and fallen trees. Areas

around some roadways are filled with sediment.

A CANAL FOR COTTON

Darien historian Buddy Sullivan said the canal project was begun

in the 1830s by Glynn County cotton growers covetous of the

commerce they saw moving along the Altamaha River between

plantations in Middle Georgia and the port at Darien.

"Darien was getting all this cotton business and Brunswick was

struggling," Sullivan said.

Thomas Butler King, owner of Retreat Plantation on St. Simons

Island, persuaded legislators to approve money for a canal "to

siphon off business," Sullivan said.

Slave labor was used initially, but when that work went too

slowly, Irish laborers from around Boston came down and took up

shovels, he said.

"They finally got the canal dug. The first cotton went on it in

1854," Sullivan said. "The canal opened too late to do Brunswick

any good. All the cotton was going to Savannah on the

railroad."

The canal then carried rice and timber into Brunswick, but when

inland timber supplies were harvested just before World War I,

the canal had little traffic left.

Today, the canal runs past heavy industry, mobile home parks

and nice homes, but mostly through timberlands marked for

development.

IMPROVEMENTS DESIRED

Bill and Shirley Dunn live on a spacious lot in Brunswick

overlooking a section of canal with little water because it is

blocked by a roadway.

"Now, we get a little water in the canal on tides," Bill Dunn

said. "It'd be nice to have a free-flowing canal."

Shirley Dunn said she lived in the neighborhood in the 1940s

and 1950s, when the canal still had deep water that came and

went with the tides. …

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