Top: the Bridge House/Tift Hall after it became Keenan Auto, Bottom: Carnegie Library and the bridge that replaced the burned Horace King Bridge.
1841- Albany gets its first newspaper, The Southwest Georgian, later renamed The Courier. The paper went out of business in 1849. By 1845 Nelson Tift and a business partner had started the second newspaper, The Albany Patriot. Also in 1845, Albany got stagecoach service. The stage would come through Albany three times a week to and from Macon and Bainbridge.
1845- The Albany Patriot, a newspaper owned by Nelson Tift reported that Albany had finally reached a population of 1,000, 200 homes, 16 stores, three hotels, two printing offices, one academy, two private schools, one Methodist Church, one Episcopal Church about to be built, and one Baptist Church in the process of being constructed. Albany also had one steam saw and grist mill. This was all nine years after Albany was founded by Nelson Tift and only seven years after it was established by the state as a city.
1857- Albany got its first railroad service. Also the Bridge House was built by Nelson Tift using mostly slave labor. The upstairs had a gathering room and a stage and was used for plays, musicals, balls and more. The building was called “Tift Hall” and ads ran in the newspapers all over Georgia about what entertainment was to be held there. An actress that had appeared in the play the President Lincoln saw at Ford’s Theater the day he was shot was reputed to have once performed in Albany at the old Tift Hall. Later during the 1860’s, the cellar of the old Bridge House was used as a pickling and meat packing facility to supply the confederacy with food. Wagons literally passed through the lower floor of the Bridge House to reach the ferry that crossed the Flint River, soon to be replaced in 1858 with Albany’s first bridge. The bridge was built by the master bridge builder Horace King. King, part Negro, part Native American, had been born a slave and had managed to buy his own freedom. King was considered the best bridge builder in the south at that time. The bridge Tift had King built was a wooden covered toll bridge with open lattice sides. It came right up to the rear of the Bridge House. According to the History and Reminiscences of Dougherty County, after a few years people became angry over paying a toll to cross the river and someone set fire to the bridge. Another covered wooden bridge with enclosed sides, had to be quickly rebuilt and then was sold to the county at a low price of $20,000.
1905-Carnegie Library is built. In 1962, some African American students attempt to use the then all-white library and are observed by the police. No one was arrested in this attempt to test the segregation laws in place at that time. The Carnegie Library has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places by the United States Department of the Interior and is currently in use by the Art Coalition here.
1916- The Albany Municipal Auditorium is built to replace the old wooden Chautauqua. Over the years it is host to some of the most talented of the music world, the stage and television including an Irving Berlin musical road show in the 1920’s. In the 1950’s and 1960’s Telethons were held in the auditorium. These telethons attracted some of Hollywood’s biggest stars to Albany, including most of the cast of Bonanza, Wagon Train, The Virginian and even starlet Jayne Mansfield among many others. The auditorium was abandoned in 1972 and stood vacant for many years. Restoration was started in 1986 and later reopened for events. Today the beautifully restored auditorium continues to host the Albany Symphony Orchestra and special performances by the Albany Ballet and Theatre Albany as well as outside artists and events. The auditorium is listed in the National Register of Historic Places by the United States Department of the Interior.
Betty Rehberg is the historian for the Albany Journal and maintains a group on Facebook called Vintage Albany Georgia.