Historical Marker Recognizes Site of CSU Founding
COLUMBUS, Ga. – Columbus State University concluded its 50th anniversary celebration Monday with the dedication of a historical marker at the site of the institution’s founding.
“This marker will be a tangible reminder of the community’s commitment to CSU and CSU’s commitment to the community,” President Tim Mescon said at the brief ceremony alongside Warm Springs Road, a few yards from the site of Columbus College’s first home, in the renovated Shannon Hosiery Mill on Talbotton Road.
The mill was razed in the late 1980s, to make way for what is now Hannan Magnet Academy, a Muscogee County School District school at 1338 Talbotton Road.
Mescon noted that the local Board of Education, Chamber of Commerce officials and others played a role in making it possible for CSU to register its first 265 students in the former mill on Sept. 22, 1958 and begin classes there a week later.
“What I liked so much about the school was that it was small,” said retired teacher Gloria Toelle of Columbus, one of about a half-dozen “Shannon Mill alumni” among the crowd of about 25 who attended Monday’s ceremony. “It was nice to be able to talk to your professors and they knew who you were.”
Mescon noted that it took “a courageous visionary,” businessman Norman Shannon Illges, to make the mill possible as it was one of Columbus’ few industrial startups during the Great Depression. The mill operated successfully from 1939 until the 1955, when Illges sold it to another hosiery manufacturer, Chadbourn Hosiery Mills.
Chadbourn sold the Shannon Hosiery Mill to the local school board in 1958 in a deal that was brokered by George Woodruff Jr., “who remains one of the Columbus area’s most visionary real estate developers,” Mescon said.
In 1963, Columbus College moved 2.5 miles east, to a 157-acre former dairy farm that became today’s main campus. Mescon mentioned that CSU marks another important date in its history this week as the University System of Georgia on May 14, 1958 conditionally accepted the college as part of the system.
The Historic Columbus Foundation and the Historic Chattahoochee Commission both assisted CSU in seeking approval for the historical marker, said Dean of Libraries Callie McGinnis, chair of the 50th Anniversary Committee. The marker was erected as part of the Historic Chattahoochee Commission's Historical Marker Program.
The marker's text notes that, today, nearly 300 faculty teach about 8,000 students in more than 50 undergraduate programs and 35 master's or specialist programs. Combined, about 80 buildings comprise CSU's main campus and the downtown RiverPark campus, not counting the university's Spencer House in Oxford, England.
CSU faculty, staff and students cleaned more than 20,000 bricks that were salvaged from the mill’s old smokestack in 1988, and those now line the inner arches of the Thomas Y. Whitley Clock Tower, dedicated in 1991 in honor of CSU’s first president.
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President Tim Mescon and Dean of Libraries Callie McGinnis, chair of CSU’s 50th Anniversary Committee, stand by the new historical marker on Warm Springs Road, near Hannan Magnet Academy. (Photo by John Lester)