We drive down Berckmans Road, but who is the family behind the pavement?

Golf

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – During your time in and around Augusta National, you may drive down or walk past Berckmans Road.

It borders Augusta National Golf Club, and dates back to the 1800s.

Frank Christian has always had a bird’s eye view of the golf course. 

“The Augusta National Golf Club, home of the Masters, was an Indian camping ground,” the retired Augusta National photographer told NewsChannel 6.

“The first known sale that I read [was] to Dennis Redmond,” he said.  “He bought the property in the mid 1800s with the idea of establishing an indigo plantation.”

Christian said that plan proved unsuccessful for Redmond who gave the 315 acre property the name “Fruitland,” according to the company’s history.   

“The city fathers were planning to build a canal, this was about 1844-1845, to attract the textile industry to the area,” Christian remembers learning. 

Augusta’s climate, soil and access to water, road and rail attracted one Belgian family with an expertise in horticulture, the Berckmans.  Louis Berckmans and his three sons started Fruitland Nurseries and launched a peach empire.  

“They seem to have a lot of fun because I have a lot of photographs of them picnicking out on the grounds and dressing up for the Fantastics.  That was something very unique to Augusta, I think it was something like the Fourth of July,” he said. 

This fun family also worked hard producing 300 kinds of peaches and shipped fruit across the world. 

“As a matter of fact, they planted the first wisteria vine, which is right behind the clubhouse today.  That was the original vine imported, I think from China or Japan.  All other wisteria that you will find throughout the country came from that plant.”

Berckmans remains busy before and after Masters.  A 1934 aerial view, captured by Christian’s father when he was Augusta National’s first photograher, shows its dirt road days.  That’s a time when Christian recalled the use of the road was limited.  He took the same photograph 50 years later in 1984 and told us that Washington Road was also a dirt road back in the day.   

The elder Berckmans and his youngest son, Prosper, now rest in Summerville Cemertery.  

Once the elder Berckmans died, the property was sold for $70,000 to establish the Augusta National Golf Club we know today. 

Photojournalist: Mark Gaskins

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