The old stable house and caretaker’s cottage adjacent to the former Seven Gables site are too far gone to fix, have limited historical value and should be demolished, according to a building assessment prepared by the firm designing a new public safety complex on the site.
However, “Tudor-Revival” details reminiscent of the Palmetto Lodge and Seven Gables Inn should be incorporated into the new buildings as “the preferred method to honor the area rather than attempting to keep the dilapidated buildings in their current locations,” says the report from Johnson, Laschober and Associates, an Augusta engineering and architectural firm.
North Augusta City Council received the report as information during its pre-meeting study session Monday night. No action was taken on the recommendations.
Both buildings were built in 1903, according to the report. The stable house — a former horse stable that was converted into a house — was damaged by fire in the 1970s and has been repeatedly vandalized. Trees and vines are growing into the building as well.
Its Tudor details are painted on, not constructed, as would be necessary to call it historic, council members were told.
The interior of the caretaker’s house is covered in mold and water leaks in through the roof and walls. Its roof might be made of asbestos shingles, which would require special disposal.
According to its 1984 nomination form for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places, the historical structures were the Palmetto Lodge and Seven Gables Inn, which were destroyed by fire in September 2008.
The stable house and caretaker’s cottage were listed as “other properties contributing to the character of the Butler Avenue Historic District.”
Mayor Bob Pettit asked if bricks or other materials could be saved and used in the new Public Safety Headquarters, fire station and court facility the city plans to build there. Yes, he was told, and City Administrator Todd Glover also talked about the city’s efforts to save as many old trees as possible on the property.
If any have to be cut down, the wood will be used in the new buildings, he said.
Pettit said officials had met with officials from Historic North Augusta and discussed the alternative of repurposing old materials rather than trying to save the old structures.
Then North Augusta resident Mike Hitchler, who lives next to the site on Georgia Avenue, raised his hand and asked to speak.
He said he knew the previous owners of the property, author Starkey Flythe and his mother, Mary, “and I spent a lot of time in those houses. Starkey wasn’t proud of those two houses.”
When Starkey Flythe died, the family “sold all the pieces that they thought were significant, and tried to give away some of the woodwork, especially in the stable area, and it just wasn’t worth keeping,” Hitchler said. “I really applaud that you’re going to try to maintain this as part of the Seven Gables-type look.”
Hitchler said he grew up in Williamsburg, Va., and thought the JLA recommendation was “the right approach.”
The city has acquired the land and plans to move toward funding the new buildings through a voter-approved special purpose sales tax.