Originally created 02/15/99

Chamber relocates its office



NORTH AUGUSTA -- A new era for the North Augusta Chamber of Commerce begins this morning when the doors open in a new offices -- a 100-year-old house just across Georgia Avenue from its present headquarters.

"It's the kickoff for downtown redevelopment," said chamber board Chairman Joseph Oller, "and it is one indication of the progress that the Chamber of Commerce and downtown North Augusta have made."

Construction is slated to begin this month on Phase I of the city's downtown redevelopment plan, which calls for a redesigned streetscape, complete with new lighting fixtures and a fountain at the lower end of Georgia Avenue.

The move began Thursday, and the chamber office was closed Friday. When it opens today, it will be in a 4,500-square-foot office located just beyond the flag poles of the second section of Wade Hampton Veterans Park at the corner of Clifton and Georgia avenues.

Not only have the floors, baseboards and fireplaces been restored to their original luster in the historic home, but the new offices will house state-of-the art electronic equipment, said executive director Lisa McElmurray.

"Our new computer system was made possible by generous donations from our membership," she said. "It gives us Internet access and, by March 1, we will have a new Web page at www.northaugusta.net/chamber."

Plans are also to provide a computer terminal for member use by early June, she said. Space also is available for a separate resource center for local information and new resource guides that the chamber expects to provide.

The house was built in 1898 by the John Fairey family, who moved to the area from New York. The Fairey family remained in the house for 10 or 15 years, said Elaine Paul, who, with her husband, Ron, owned the Royale Boutique that occupied the house from 1990 through 1998.

In 1977, Terry and Cathy Sullivan bought the house and began the task of restoration that has just been completed by the chamber.

"We will miss the view from the windows," Ms. McElmurray said, but that is about the only thing that she and her staff, Roni Geiselhart and Antoinette Noble-Webb, will regret about the move, though she did note that the old building had served the chamber well since 1961.

"It was a box on stilts," said Mr. Oller.

And it was perched precariously on a cliff overlooking what is to become Waterworks Park on property owned by the city.

The building, however, is owned by the chamber, which is in the process of taking bids on it. Any buyer, however, would have to move it, Ms. McElmurrary said.

She noted that anyone interested in bidding on the building should contact the chamber office at 279-2323.

Pat Willis covers North Augusta, Horse Creek Valley and Edgefield County for The Augusta Chronicle. She may be reached at (803) 279-6895.