History & Heritage

Albany was a center of commerce long before Gen. James Oglethorpe made Georgia the 13th colony in February 1733 and before Nelson Tift founded the city in October 1836. Tift thought Albany’s location along the Flint River ideal for commerce, and made Albany the marketing center for the booming cotton industry. Although Tift’s business gamble was spot on, the idea was hardly original. Thousands of years before modern civilization would colonize the region, the Lower Creek Indians had established the city as a commercial hub, utilizing the Flint River, or, as they called it, Thronateeska – “the place where Flint is picked up” – as a trade route.

Albany grew to incorporate several plantations during the mid-1800s and saw no battles during the Civil War to interfere with the plantations’ production. Rather, the large plantations provided cotton and desperately needed food to the Confederacy.

Albany eventually turned to the rails for transportation, becoming a rail center by the turn of the 20th century after finding that low water and sandbars in the Flint River made steamboat navigation unreliable. Union station, which united the seven railroads that serves as many as 55 trains daily, is now the home of the Thronateeska Heritage Center. Industry and commerce followed the railroads, and an active arts community ensured cultural as well as economic growth.

Today, Albany-Dougherty County remains the industrial and commercial hub of Southwest Georgia, and the role of the Flint River – fed by one of the world’s most prolific aquifers – is no less diminished.

Quick Facts About Albany's History & Heritage
  • 1836: Albany is created
  • 1853: Dougherty County is created, with Albany as its county seat
  • 1857: Completion of rail line to Albany connects merchants to Port of Savannah
  • 1889: Albany erects electric lights, becoming the first Edison municipal incandescent system in the South
  • 1903: Joseph Winthrop Holley founds what is now Albany State University
  • 1906: Carnegie Library opens
  • 1910: Albany Area Chamber of Commerce is established
  • 1911: Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital opens, providing medical services to Southwest Georgians
  • 1925: Radium Springs Casino is opened as an entertainment and spa center
  • 1952: Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany is established
  • 1961: Albany Civil Rights Movement is formally organized
  • 1961: Albany Technical College is established
  • 1963: Darton College is established
  • 1964: Mars Chocolate North America builds Albany facility
  • 1964: Albany Museum of Art is established
  • 1964: Albany Symphony Orchestra is established
  • 1964: Theatre Albany is established in the historic John A. Davis House
  • 1971: Palmyra Medical Center opens
  • 1973: Procter & Gamble opens paper products facility in Albany, in large part of city’s abundance of and access to water
  • 1976: Albany Mall opens in northwest corridor of county
  • 1979: MillerCoors builds brewery in Albany in large part because of city’s abundance of and access to water
  • 1990: Renovated Albany Municipal Auditorium reopens with concert by native son Ray Charles
  • 1998: Albany Civil Rights Institute opens
  • 1997: Emerge Albany, the Albany area’s young professionals group, is organized under the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce
  • 2004: Flint RiverQuarium, one of world’s few open-air freshwater aquariums, opens in downtown Albany along the Flint River
  • 2007: Albany Snickers Marathon is established, drawing thousands to Albany each March
  • 2007: Ray Charles Plaza opens along Flint River
  • 2007: Emerge Albany
  • 2008: Albany Convention and Visitors Bureau opens in the renovated historic Bridge House
  • 2009: Pfizer Inc. buys ThermaCare, produced only in Albany
  • 2010: Albany named “Center of Excellence for Logistics” by Business Expansion; Radium Springs Garden is reopened to the public
  • 2011: Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital celebrates 100 years of service