Augusta – Richmond County – The John Phinizy House on Greene Street in Augusta has seen nearly 200 years of history. A family home for 100 years, a private ballroom, a funeral home, Elk’s Lodge, and now an Event Facility – this house has quite a story to tell!
John Phinizy built the house in 1835. It looks much the same today – with a couple of additions. Phinizy was a prominent merchant, who became Mayor of Augusta in 1837. This sixteen room house is thought to have been designed by Charles Cluskey. Cluskey is the same architect of the nearby Old Medical College and Old Georgia Governor’s Mansion in Milledgeville.
City houses often had the raised doorway we see here, as there was a lot of dust and dirt at street level. One of the grandest homes in the city, it reflected the Phinizy wealth and prominence in town.
John Phinizy House during the Gilded Age
The house passed on to family descendents, and by the late 1800s they were ready to update the house. Mary Lou Yancey Phinizy was the undisputed leader of Augusta Society, and involved in many civic groups, including the YWCA. Mrs. Phinizy first married Fernand Bowdre Phinizy, and after his death she married his cousin, Charles Phinizy in 1885. She and Charles set about having the house updated. Who did they hire to renovate? Tiffany and Company of New York.
Looking at the photo above, a few changes are noticeable. The inlaid floors were a result of this renovation, and where we see the columns? These used to be pocket doors – they were removed and the columns were added. The fireplaces were updated, and several stained glass windows were added.
The biggest change to the exterior of the house during this time? Adding a 4th floor to the house. It served as the ballroom. A private ballroom was very much in vogue among the wealthy in the 1890s. Think of the events that were hosted here!
By 1920, Mrs. Mary Lou Phinizy was living in the home with one of her sons, her daughter Mary Lou, a grandson, as well as 4 live-in staff: a cook, 2 maids, and a chauffer. Mrs. Phinizy passed away in 1926, and her daughter (also Mary Lou Phinizy) held onto the home for a few years before selling it. We see the house below in its last decade as a private home.
1930s-1990s: Funeral Home & Elks Lodge
In 1936, Mary Lou Phinizy sold the house to Henry Poteet and Edward Pratt Grealish. They converted the house to Grealish Poteet Walker Funeral Home. This was short-lived, as it was sold in 1938 to the Elk’s Lodge. In the 1930s photo below, not much has changed; however, a clock and business name has been installed on the porch area.
The Elks Lodge called this home for nearly 60 years. While they were there, they added some space by enclosing the porch to the left of the house. They also installed carpet in many areas of the house – as was common in this time. And the top floor ballroom? This was their lodge area. We need to thank the Elks Lodge for installing carpet all those years ago. It’s going to be a good news story.
1990s – Today – Marion Hatcher Center
In 1993, William Hatcher Sr & MAU purchased the house. There was a lot of rehabilitation to do in the house. One of the good things? After removing carpet, linoleum, and plywood….the inlaid floors were still there! With some restoration, we can enjoy these beautiful floors today. The Marion Hatcher Center is now an Event Facility. They have gone to great lengths to preserve the historic integrity of this mansion.
One last look at the John Phinizy House. When I think of this house, I think of the fact the house has shined in entertaining for well over 100 years. Back in the early 1900s, imagine attending a party in the top floor ballroom hosted by Mrs. Phinizy. And today, it’s fun to see this house as it hosts some amazing weddings and parties.
Thank you for reading the blog, hope you enjoyed learning more about the John Phinizy House and it’s role in Augusta for the last 185 years.