Designer Of Our Lives
Charles Edward Choate, minister and architect, walked the roads of life, designing the lives of those whom he came into contact with. Whether through envisioning buildings which shaped our lives or delivering sermons which were intended to shape our Christian lives, Choate became one of Georgia’s most prolific architects. His most lasting impact can be found in the twin railroad cities of Sandersville and Tennille.
Not limited to those Washington County cities, Choate’s designs can found across the state. One of the more elegant, the Isadore Bashinski house, can be found right here in Dublin. It shall be also be noted that for a brief time during his transition from the ministry to architecture, Choate briefly studied in Dublin under the tutelage of another Methodist Minister/architect,
Charles Edward Choate was born August 31, 1865 in Houston County, Georgia, one hundred anf fifty years ago. A son of Charles Thompson Choate and his bride, Ann DuPree Roquemore Choate, Choate’s architectural skills may have been inherited from his grandfather, Jacob Thompson Choate, who is credited with designing the Milledgeville’s old capitol building and Macon’s Wesleyan College.
During that time, Charles worked as a draftsman, for a time in the offices of Peter Dennis in Macon. Rev. Choate left the active ministry to concentrate on his architectural career. After completing his studies at Vanderbilt University in 1898, he announced that he was forming a partnership with the Rev. George C. Thompson in Dublin. It was during that last year of the 19th Century, when Choate spent much of his time working with his fellow minister/architect in Dublin. Thompson, well known and well respected minister of the South Georgia conference, specialized in designing churches, courthouses and schools. The First United Methodist Church in Dublin and Wesley Memorial Methodist Church are among his most well known designs.
Charles Choate chose the hand of Agnes S. Dodson on July 5, 1900, in her home of Maysville. The Choates returned to Sandersville, where Choate’s career began to take off. During the time of their five-year engagement and reportedly at the behest of his fiancé, Choate’s ministerial duties waned as he devoted more time to Agnes and his new profession.
Choate focused most of his attention of designs in Sandersville and Tennille, where the largest group of his most enduring projects can still be found. It was during the “Golden Age” of the twin cities when Choate began to shine as an architect.
His grandest facade can be found of the south side of the Central of Georgia railroad’s tracks in Tennille. The headquarters building of the Wrightsville & Tennille Railroad. Some of them include high-style Victorian residences such as the Paris-Veal House, ornate commercial structures such as the Holt Brothers Banking Building and Gothic churches such as the Tennille Baptist Church. The Pritchard Hotel, now gone, was of his design as well.
At the turn of the 20th Century, the Choates hoped to find expanded opportunities. The economic troubles of the 1890s were history and Augusta, once again, was on the rise. Choate formed a partnership with Joseph Turner. When Turner died in 1903, Choate took over the business.
Situated in a new city, Choate was selected to do design some of the city’s most modern and classic residences on Green Street and in the suburb of Summerville, as well as the parsonage of St. John’s Methodist Church and the Y.M.C.A. building.
Choate never abandoned Washington County as he kept on designing buildings for paying customers. In Athens, he designed the Neoclassical women’s dormitory, the Winnie Davis Memorial Hall. Choate was exceedingly popular among house builders in many parts of eastern Georgia.
Also in demand as a designer of churches, Choate drew plans for the Methodist churches in Wrightsville (left) and Stillmore and the Second Presbyterian Church in Greenville, South Carolina.
After less than a decade, the Choates left Augusta for even more opportunities in the booming metropolis of Atlanta, where he opened an office in the prestigious Candler building. As demand for Choate’s designs continued to rise across the entire state, he continued to further his education to better serve his clients.
Described as “keenly observant, open to learning new ideas, and with a high attention to detail,” Choate, among the state’s most respected architects, seemed to feel the need to move around often. He opened a new office in Orlando, Florida and spent the last couple of years of his life in Montgomery, Alabama.
Charles Edward Choate died on November 16, 1929 in Maysville, Kentucky, his wife’s hometown.
Philosopher, writer and world leader Winston Churchill once marked, “We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.”
Today, one hundred and fifty years after his birth, the legacies of Charles Edward Choate can still be found in Georgia and the Southeast. His designs, many of which can be found among the listings on the National Register of Historic Places, ranged from the simple and Craftsman style to elaborate, ornate Victorian ones. Choate was indeed, a man of God and a man of his craft, who will continue to design our lives for centuries to come.