June 7 – THOMASVILLE – A grant from the Williams Family Foundation was implemented this week through the purchase and installation of 24 historic plaques in the 200 block of West Jackson St. This project completion caps the final phase of the town of Thomasville to commemorate the history of the district.
City of Thomasville staff worked with the Jack Hadley Black History Museum and the Thomasville History Center to identify historic businesses in the area. The plaques list the names of the businesses, along with the address, years the business was in operation, and the name of the owner. The 200 and 300 blocks of West Jackson Street, known as The Bottom, served as the location for many minority-owned businesses that opened before integration and played an important role in its early history from the 1900s to the 1970s. The area served as a hub of shopping, dining, entertainment, and health care for the African American community.
The first phase of commemorating the area’s history began in 2017 when community engagement sessions were held to seek public feedback on the West Jackson Streetscape. In 2018, the Thomasville City Council voted to officially name this business district The Bottom and name The Ritz Amphitheater and Park after the Ritz Theater, the place of entertainment for African Americans for many years before mainstream schooling. . A streetscape project in this area was completed in 2019, followed by the installation of a memorial wall celebrating the area’s history and the installation of over 35 sidewalk plaques in the 300 block of West Jackson Street.
“Last year when we installed the sidewalk plaques in the 300 block of West Jackson Street, funding was not available to continue this installation in the 200 block,” said Sherri Cain, Community Outreach Manager. in Thomasville. “The generosity of the Williams Family Foundation has allowed us to continue to honor the heritage of this area and recognize the minority-owned businesses that have played such an important role in The Bottom’s history.”
Public input has played an important role in the preservation of this area.
“In 2014, public engagement sessions led to the Creative District Vision Plan, which provided the framework for building the Ritz Amphitheater and directions for the 2019 streetscape project in this area,” said Cain. “This generous grant from the Williams Family Foundation has allowed us to capture the additional story and continue to share and celebrate The Bottom’s story for years to come.”
For more information about the Williams Family Foundation Grant or information about other projects commemorating the district, visit Thomasville.org or call (229) 227-7001.