As I drove by the site of the Bibb Mill ruins, I had to reflect on my visit to the area in 1985 when I was a student at Columbus State University. I had gone back to school to finish some unfinished business, namely getting a degree. I was being taught historic preservation by Dr. John Lupold, former chair of the History Department at Columbus State University. I was his only student for that course. That’s right, it was one-on-one teaching. Only two people applied to take the class, and the other one withdrew.
Dr. Lupold said, “If you really want to take this course, I’ll teach it. We don’t usually do this, but you can just come to my office and I’ll teach it.” I have a sneaking suspicion that he wanted the co-anchor of the top-rated newscast in Columbus for years to learn about historic preservation and perhaps support the cause. Well, truth is, I did become more of a supporter of the cause after I took the course.
I had spent seven years of my boyhood living in an old Victorian house on 5th Avenue in downtown Columbus. At the time, I thought it was just an old house and couldn’t wait to eventually move into a modern one. Now I realize what a treasure it was. Years after we moved out, it was torn down to make room for a parking lot.
Part of the final exam was to drive around town and have me idenitify the different archetectual styles in Columbus. Believe it or not, we have just about all of them from the antebellum and Victorian eras. To take me to an area for me to identify the California Bungalow style we drove up to Bibb City. Now, there are California Bungalows, larger ones, in the Wynnton and St. Elmo areas, but they didn’t have the unqiueness and historical significance of the ones in Bibb City.
Back in the twenties the owners of Bibb Mill wanted to present a progressive face and to do that it built a mill village that went against the sterotypical shotgun-house Southern mill village. This showplace of nicer mill village homes was made up of California Bungalows, and they weren’t all just alike.
This village was constructed in the 1920’s not long after the 3rd and final incarnation of three Bibb Mills that evolved on the First Avenue site. That mill, the one that just went up in flames, was built in 1919 and opened in 1920.
The homes, sold long ago by Bibb, are still occupied and well maintained by their owners, and, as you can see, have a charm that only nature and time can provide.