Designs by minister-architect Charles E. Choate have been documented in more than two dozen Georgia towns and cities, as well as at sites in Florida, Alabama, and the Carolinas. Choate’s buildings are often located in railroad towns, and the largest concentration of his work is found in Sandersville and Tennille in Washington County, where Choate settled at the turn of the century.
Charles Edward Choate was born on August 31, 1865, in Houston County. He was a student at the University of Georgia by 1889 and began a ten-year period of architectural apprenticeships throughout the 1890s (with Peter Dennis in Macon, George Thompson in Dublin, and Joseph Turner in Augusta). In 1892, with Wesley W. DeHaven, he established the partnership of DeHaven and Choate.
At the same time, Choate began his career as a Methodist minister, serving churches across middle Georgia. He studied at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, from 1897 to 1898, and the next year a newspaper account announced that Choate would begin collaborating with the Reverend George C. Thompson. Thompson, a minister-architect specializing in church design, was the architect of the Methodist church in Dublin. Choate’s church designs include the brick Romanesque revival Tennille Baptist Church (1900), showing the influence of H. H. Richardson; Methodist churches for Wrightsville and Stillmore, in Georgia (1907); the Second Presbyterian Church (1908) of Greenville, South Carolina; and the grand Park Street United Methodist Church in Atlanta (1912).
His early work, however, is best evidenced by the several buildings in Sandersville and Tennille that he built between 1896 and 1903 (although by 1900 he had moved to Augusta). These include two banks, one built in 1900 in Tennille, where commercial businesses shared an arcaded brick one-story structure with crowing cornice, and the more urbane Holt Brothers Banking Company Building in Sandersville (1898), as well as the Wrightsville and Tennille Railroad Building of 1903. The latter building employs brick and marble in a rich facade of arched windows, paneled piers, crenellation, and rustication. The interior features extensive wood trim and a beaded ceiling.
This spirit of “high style” elaboration informed Choate’s remodeling in the 1890s of the Plantation Plain–style Brantley-Haygood House (1850s) into an Eclectic Victorian great house of paired veranda posts, porch turret, harp brackets, and projecting cornices. Similar features characterize the Queen Anne–style Paris-Veal “Silk Stocking Street” house of 1900, nicknamed in reference to Rachel Paris’s penned remembrances of her family. Choate’s versatility is evidenced by his last Tennille house design, the Kelley-Mertz House (1919-20), a stuccoed and tile-roofed Craftsman bungalow.
During most of the first decade of the twentieth century, Choate lived and practiced out of Augusta, where several of his houses survive in the Green Street Historic District. By 1909 Choate and Cyril B. Smith had opened an office in the Candler Building in Atlanta, and about five years later Deford Smith joined the firm. In 1925 financial difficulties resulted in Choate’s moving to Florida, where he worked in Tampa and Orlando before moving to Montgomery, Alabama, where he spent the final two years of his life. In 1929 he moved to Maysville, Kentucky, the hometown of his wife, Agnes Dodson. He died there that same year.