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Commemorating the 200th Anniversary of Pembroke, GA

Location: Washington, DC

COMMEMORATING THE 200TH ANNIVERSARY OF PEMBROKE, GA -- (Extensions of Remarks - July 22, 2004)


Mr. KINGSTON. Mr. Speaker, I wish to commemorate Pembroke, Georgia on its 200th Anniversary in 2004. I'm honored to represent this vibrant city and to call many of its residents my friends.

Historic downtown Pembroke is named for Pembroke Williams who was a judge and a prominent local resident in the late 19th century. The historic district is located in the central business district of this city of 2,500 persons and is characterized by its relationship to the Georgia Central Railroad, which bisects the town. It was founded as a farming town, like so many similar towns which sprouted during that time to serve the agricultural needs of the nation. The layout of the town around the railroad hearkens to a time of great growth, industrial zeal and expansionism. Pembroke found a thriving life serving the trains that led to the great markets of the coast.

The majority of the structures in the district are of 1930s and 1940s vintage. The city also consists of several blocks of early 20th-Century commercial and government buildings. With the exception of a few buildings, all of the buildings are of one or two stories in height, and most of the buildings are brick or brick-faced buildings with pine timber construction.

The buildings in the district are a variety of styles and materials, all dating from the early to mid 1900s. Most are brick one and two-storied commercial buildings and originally had wood or metal awnings over the windows. Today, the buildings show architectural niceties such as terra cotta embellishments, carved cornerstone, and marble commemorative plaques that reflect the pride of simple rural businessmen in their buildings and in their town. The most interesting structures architecturally are the Pembroke Millworks building and the Food bank building. Most of the buildings in the district are in good condition and are currently in use as publicly owned property.

The historic district of Pembroke was created to serve the agricultural needs of the nation in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The layout of the town around the railroad, the plethora of commercial structures crowding the verges of the railroad property, and the prim, stolid storefronts of the respectable buildings all hearken to a time of great growth, industrial zeal and expansionism in American history.

The history of Pembroke is the history of early American commerce. Founded as a railroad depot, Pembroke found a thriving life serving the trains that led to the great markets of the coast. When the trains stopped coming and the commerce declined, the town faltered, but managed to remain alive through the tough years. Now on the verge of explosive re-growth as a bedroom community to Savannah, Pembroke is seeking to retain its heritage, while finding new vitality in the influx of new residents.

Much of the historic district, once the province of private industry, is today publicly owned property. The buildings themselves, and their changing uses over the years, offer a glimpse into the working of local government of the last century. At the same time, several of the buildings-the "Welcome Center," the old Jail, and the Tos Theater to name the most prominent-retain elements of some of the more grim elements of its past . . . the stark conditions of prisoners in the jail, the segregated seating in the old theater, the peculiar design of the "Welcome Center" (with slit windows giving the police officers a vantage on the entire downtown.)

The Tos Theater, founded by G.S. Tos, was a quintessential example of the small-town movie palace. Without even a concession stand (candy, popcorn, and sodas were obtained from the drugstore soda fountain next door), the Tos Theater nevertheless was an important social gathering place for the town. With segregated seating (the toilet facilities), the building also recalls some of the social conventions of the 20th Century South, conventions which are fast fading into the past, but should be recalled and recognized.

Pembroke's Historic District is a landscape defined by transportation. First by the railway, which gave the town its reason for existence and its livelihood for much of its history. Second by horses and mules, the dependence on which beasts of burden helped to define the layout of the city. Third by the car, highways for which have provided the lifeline for the city, keeping Pembroke connected to its larger neighbors for much of the latter half of the 20th Century. The highways-Hwy. 67, Hwy. 119 and Hwy. 280--which converge in Pembroke will help to define its future, as they have its past.

I am proud to recognize Pembroke, Georgia on this its 200th Anniversary. This town has provided much to the state of Georgia and I am proud to have represented it in the United States House of Representatives.

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