The United States Arsenal in Augusta was originally constructed in 1819 on a site adjacent to the Savannah River just above the city. This proved to be an unhealthy location: not long after the Arsenal was occupied, nearly all the members of the garrison died in a fever epidemic.
Shortly thereafter, the federal government decided to relocate the facility in a healthier environment and in November 1826 a tract of approximately 70 acres was purchased for this purpose by the Arsenal's first commandant, Capt M. M. Payne, from Freeman Walker (a former U.S. Senator from Georgia).
The Walker tract, or "Bellevue tract," today the site of the campus of Augusta University, is located to the west of Augusta's early-nineteenth century outskirts on a sandy hill now known as Summerville. During 1827 and 1828 the Arsenal buildings were dismantled and the materials were transported to the new locale where they were reassembled.
Standing today in front of Payne Hall the building on the left was the commandant's quarters. The junior officers’ quarters were on the right while the center building was the 'arsenal' or storehouse building. On the west side of the Arsenal quadrangle stood the enlisted men's barracks.
All of these structures survive today as administrative facilities for Augusta University, a unit of the University System of Georgia. The Augusta Arsenal site has been officially designated as site number 9-Ri-1045 in the Georgia State Site files in Athens.
Until the Civil War the Arsenal functioned as a part of the U.S. military establishment. It was occupied by Confederate forces for the duration of the conflict. The Arsenal, along with the Confederate Powder Works and other manufacturing facilities in the city, contributed weapons and munitions to the Confederate war effort.
Returned to the federal government at the war’s end in 1865, the Arsenal became an important manufacturing center, supplying U.S. troops with small weapons, ordinance, equipment, and munitions through numerous conflicts, including World War I, World War II, and the Korean War. The Arsenal operated continuously as an active U.S. Army facility serving the country in war and peace. Army soldiers and officers lived on the site as part of the Summerville community until the arsenal was abandoned in 1955.
A portion of the arsenal property was acquired by the Richmond County Board of Education in 1957 as home for the Junior College of Augusta. The following year the college became part of the University System of Georgia and was renamed Augusta College.