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Historical Cauley-Wheeler building at Laney will be demolished

Thursday, July 11, 2013 2:09 PM
Last updated Friday, July 12, 2013 1:48 AM
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When the machines go to tear down the 89-year-old Cauley-Wheeler building on the Lucy C. Laney High School campus this summer, the city will be losing more than a deteriorating schoolhouse, according to Willie Harris.

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The Cauley-Wheeler building was built in 1924 and is in the center of the Lucy C. Laney High School campus. Once part of the Haines Normal and Industrial School, the deteriorating building is scheduled to be torn down.  MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
The Cauley-Wheeler building was built in 1924 and is in the center of the Lucy C. Laney High School campus. Once part of the Haines Normal and Industrial School, the deteriorating building is scheduled to be torn down.

The building is the last remaining structure from the Haines Normal and Industrial Institute, a school charted by Lucy Craft Laney in 1886 to educate black children. Most of the school’s buildings were razed when it closed in 1949 to make way for Laney High, but the Cauley-Wheeler building remained, reminding all of the educator’s legacy and history.

“That’s a piece of history that can’t be duplicated,” said Harris, the second vice president of the Haines Alumni Association. “Once it’s gone, it’s gone and anything else is left to memory. But memory passes when a body leaves this Earth.”

Because of its structural flaws and deterioration, the Richmond County Board of Education plans to demolish the building when a $20 million renovation project begins at Laney in August. Board attorney Pete Fletcher said there are plans to replicate the building on the back part of campus and use some of the original materials for the walkway or plaques.

Benton Starks, the senior director of facilities and maintenance, said the 1924 building has issues with the structure and heating and air system that would make it difficult to preserve.

During the two-year project, Laney will have new classrooms built, old ones torn down, a new kitchen and cafeteria, and renovations to remaining classrooms and the gymnasium, which would make it difficult to work around the Cauley-Wheeler building, Starks said.

The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2008, but the school system has the authority to demolish it because the structure does not receive federal funding, according to Fletcher.

Still, Historic Augusta Executive Director Erick Montgomery said it is a shame to not preserve such an important structure, especially when so many other buildings in the Laney-Walker neighborhood have disappeared over the years.

The building is being used by the Haines Alumni Association for meetings and as a small museum, so it was not to the point of no return, he said.

“If you want to get rid of a building, you say it’s in terrible condition and the cost to renovate is too high,” Montgomery said. “The Laney-Walker Historic District and neighborhood is just being dismantled one building at a time. Its history is just disappearing before everyone’s eyes. ... It’s just under assault.”

Montgomery pointed to the Immaculate Conception church and school demolished in 2012, the deteriorating state of the original C.T. Walker home and demolitions around Kozy Korner near 12th Street and Laney-Walker.

Harris said the alumni association, which has nearly 90 active members, was contacted by a representative of the school system and told that the Cauley-Wheeler building had to be demolished because of its condition and role in the campus renovations.

Although Harris said he does not agree with the demolition, he said the group did not want to protest the decision and delay the school’s construction efforts.

With many of the association’s members well into their 80s, he said, there has to be a renewed effort to keep the memory of Lucy C. Laney alive when the people and physical reminders are fading away.

“That building is really the last link (to Laney) except for her grave,” Harris said.

HAINES INSTITUTE FACTS
  • Lucy Craft Laney was born in 1854 in Macon, Ga., and taught to read through her slave owner’s sister.
  • After graduating from Atlanta University, Laney began teaching in Macon but later moved to Augusta.
  • She started a school for black children in 1883 in the basement of a church with six students.
  • Francine Haines, the president of the Woman’s Department of the Presbyterian Church, donated $10,000 for the school, which had grown to 234 students by 1885.
  • Laney charted the Haines Normal and Industrial Institute in 1886 and opened it in a building on Gwinnett Street, now Laney-Walker Boulevard.
  • The Haines Institute closed in 1949, most of the buildings were razed and Lucy C. Laney Comprehensive High School was built on the site.
  • The Cauley-Wheeler building, used most recently as a meeting place for the Haines Alumni Association, will be demolished in August.

Source: The National Park Service

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Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 07/11/13 - 02:34 pm
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While they're at it . . .

. . . have the demolition crews move on down to Telfair St. and demolish the old Davidson School before it falls down.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 07/11/13 - 02:37 pm
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Step Up

Whine:

Still, Historic Augusta Executive Director Erick Montgomery said it is a shame to not preserve such an important structure, especially when so many other buildings in the Laney-Walker neighborhood have disappeared over the years.

Well, Mr. Montgomery, no one is stopping you from stepping up to the plate and purchasing the building, as long as you bring crews to lift the building and move it to a lot under your control.

corgimom
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corgimom 07/11/13 - 02:40 pm
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"The building is being used

"The building is being used by the Haines Alumni Association for meetings and as a small museum, so it was not to the point of no return, he said. "

Then, by all means, let the Haines Alumni Association pay for the renovations! Problem solved!

my.voice
8059
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my.voice 07/11/13 - 03:17 pm
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1
Time to let it go. Take the

Time to let it go. Take the bricks and redo part of Riverwalk with them as a tribute.

willie7
1107
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willie7 07/11/13 - 04:20 pm
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3
I agree with Montgomery; it
Unpublished

I agree with Montgomery; it is a great shame that the Cauley-Wheeler
building is being demolished. There is no money in the Black Community to preserve anything because black preachers rob the community.Many black people give only to their churches and very few charity organizations. Only a few support Paine College and other black colleges--yet many say they love their schools.
The Laney Museum struggle to raise funds.
You can't preserve these buildings with fish frys.
Wake up my black brothers and sisters---- Let us start doing some significant projects in our community and divisify our giving.

LuvMyTown
2534
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LuvMyTown 07/11/13 - 06:22 pm
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1
Tragic

Destroy your history. "Nothing ever happened here." Move on without knowing your past.

soapy_725
50327
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soapy_725 07/12/13 - 08:23 am
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Bring in the Dept of Justice to create a protest. Works in FL.
Unpublished

Bring in the Dept of Justice to create a protest. Works in FL.

soapy_725
50327
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soapy_725 07/12/13 - 08:20 am
1
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Why is it only old white people feed the starving in Africa?
Unpublished

Why is it only old white people feed the starving in Africa?

soapy_725
50327
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soapy_725 07/12/13 - 08:22 am
1
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Why is it that only old white people fund soup kitchens?
Unpublished

Why is it that only old white people fund soup kitchens?

soapy_725
50327
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soapy_725 07/12/13 - 08:21 am
1
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The Black Community belongs to the federal government. LS&B
Unpublished

The Black Community belongs to the federal government. LS&B

soapy_725
50327
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soapy_725 07/12/13 - 08:24 am
1
0
Get a 3 for 1 grant from the federal government. That Works.
Unpublished

Get a 3 for 1 grant from the federal government. That Works.

soapy_725
50327
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soapy_725 07/12/13 - 08:28 am
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Nothing is a part of "their history" but SLAVERY. Priorities?
Unpublished

Nothing is a part of "their history" but SLAVERY. Priorities?

TaxiManSteve
81
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TaxiManSteve 07/12/13 - 08:36 am
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Boards of Educations as stewards of our culture....

Mark Twain, who worked as at the Sacramento Union newspaper, is reported to have said 'There's Purgatory, there's Hell, and then there is the School Board.'

allhans
25545
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allhans 07/12/13 - 12:45 pm
0
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Recently I wanted to point

Recently I wanted to point out my old high school to a friend and what I found was storage tanks. There was no sign of the old school.. I'm not sure it made the news.

David Parker
7926
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David Parker 07/12/13 - 01:29 pm
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Part of me thinks that if you

Part of me thinks that if you ignore history like this, you can't learn from it. Another part of me sees the benefit of dismantling it and using it's remaining resources elsewhere. Regarding the latter option, if you recycle, is that the same as procuring history?

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