South Capitol Parkway Past & Present Fun

By on 10 October, 2014 in City Living, Fun, Karren Pell with 0 Comments

Because the annual Capitol Heights by Candlelight Christmas Tour will feature homes on South Capitol Parkway this year, I thought it would be fun to look at some history and some the folk tales about that famous parkway in that famous neighborhood. Before that, though, a friendly reminder: The holidays are just around the corner, and the tour is on Saturday, December 13, from 4 p.m. until 7.

According to one of my favorite sources, Jeff Benton, several attempts were made to develop the area now known as South Capitol Parkway. In 1856, lots of 5 to 7 acres were platted. After 1887, the location was re-platted for Albert and Mary Elmore. At that time, South Capitol Parkway was called Central Street. In 1904, the Capitol Heights Development Company bought the adjoining 200 acre Vickers Plantation, and promoted lots and homes for the Capitol Heights neighborhood.

South Capitol Parkway

South Capitol Parkway

The name changed to South Capitol Parkway around 1915. The boulevard was modeled after Greene Street in Augusta, Georgia, which is the epitome of the park landscape concept so popular in the early 1900s. It’s a concept that we still enjoy today. Oak trees once graced the South Capitol Parkway’s grassy median, but were removed in the late 1980s as they interfered with power lines. Greene Street in Augusta still has theirs, and I’m pretty sure they have electricity too, but that’s all I’ll say.

Oral history holds that one of Capitol Heights’ early developers, Frank S. Lasseter, who lived at 34 South Capitol Parkway (and whose house will be on tour), planted a large vegetable garden on land just beyond the platted lots towards Mt. Meigs Street; he even hired a man to tend the garden. The residents of the new neighborhood were invited to help themselves to the bounty.

Another story about planting involves Frank Browne, the head gardener for the close-by showcase home, Morning View, in the 1920s. Although he had a huge amount of landscaping and planting responsibilities for his employer, Morning View’s owner Gen. Mitchell B. Houghton, Frank Browne took it upon himself to supervise nearby South Capitol Parkway. At that time, individual owners assumed the responsibility for mowing the grass in the sections across from their houses. As might be predicted, this practice led to uneven levels of grass in the median. Such lack of organization and attention to detail worried Browne. In addition, home owners also planted bushes or flowers in the median. If Browne disapproved of their choices, he took it upon himself to exchange the plantings to ones that he preferred.

Since the area was more or less communal, these efforts were noted with a degree of complacency. However, the tale goes that he overstepped his neighbors’ patience when he started replacing and replanting in private yards. The tale continues that one day a certain Mrs. Hugh White discovered that the flowers she had planted in a long box under her carport had been removed and others planted in their place. At that point, Browne was told clearly to tend to his own business and his own flower beds.

These days, the city mows the median. The residents and the neighborhood association are very appreciative of that service. In addition, some residents have a vision they wish had support at City Hall: lights in the trees. Years ago, the neighborhood association paid to have electricity put in the median. Every Christmas, the homeowners on South Capitol Parkway string lights in the trees on the median. For the last couple of years, other residents have pitched in and helped. For several years, yours truly attempted to get the city to take over the electric bill for the lights. The reasoning behind such a request is that the median is listed as a city park, and is maintained by city park employees. My vision was to keep the lights on all year and light up the median for other holidays and events such as Biscuit games, Halloween, Sandra Nickel’s birthday, and other special occasions. However, I have not been successful in my endeavor. Therefore, every year at the holidays, the neighborhood association has to pay an inspection fee and a reconnection fee, in addition to the usage bill. The median is beautiful with the mini lights in the trees and we will carry on regardless of fees and/or aggravation. However, it would be nice to, as the song says, have a little help from our friends (at City Hall).

Ah well, help or not, on Saturday, December 13, from 4 p.m. until 7, the trees will twinkle, the cider will steam, the cookies will crunch, and the carolers will warble. Holiday greetings and laughter will be heard all along South Capitol Parkway. I’ve even heard Santa might make an appearance. South Capitol Parkway remains one of the most gracious historic boulevards in our fair city. This marks the 27th year of the Christmas tour and over a hundred years of wonderful neighborhood living on South Capitol Parkway. Mark your calendar now. And keep an eye out for those lights!

Karren Pell is a writer, teacher, and performer who lives with her husband, Tim Henderson, and an assortment of cats and dogs in Capitol Heights. She is the author of three books. Her musical compositions range from commercial songs to theatrical works, with five musical adaptations to her credit.

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