Originally created 05/07/02

Society wants houses to stay



GRANITEVILLE - A look through a dirty window at 83 Canal St. reveals an empty house that dates back more than eight decades. The crown molding, hardwood floors and French doors with crystal knobs make it one of the more stately homes from the town's mill history.

These sought-after accents in particular have made it, and an identical home next to it at 84 Canal St., desirable to would-be purchasers after the Aiken County School District, which owns the real estate, put a large for-sale sign in the adjoining front yards.

But the two houses, built for supervisors of textile-maker Graniteville Co.'s mill, must be moved from the property.

The possibility that the homes would be moved from their historic locations shocked Diane Gunter, the president of the Horse Creek Historical Society. Ms. Gunter and other society members collected a petition with the signatures of 509 residents who want the homes saved.

According to schools Deputy Superintendent Bill Gallman, the district is not interested in giving up the land, which could be used for expansion of neighboring Leavelle McCampbell Middle School. The hope has been that someone would purchase the homes and move them, intact, from the property.

"If we had to expand (Leavelle McCampbell), we would need that area. It's sort of landlocked," he said.

The historical society's petition was given to the Aiken County school board at its April 23 meeting.

"I think the historical society needs some time to look at it and try to understand what it would cost to maintain (the two homes)," Dr. Gallman said.

The school district acquired the homes from the Graniteville Co. in the 1960s. At that time, Leavelle McCampbell was a high school and the homes were used to entice new football coaches and band directors, Dr. Gallman said.

The houses have been empty for more than seven years.

The only bids the district received were unacceptable, Dr. Gallman said.

The society has asked to lease the homes or purchase both for a nominal sum, Ms. Gunter said. After renovations, the society says it would use the space for a museum and community center and possibly a library.

Reach Carly Phillips at (803) 648-1395 or carly.phillips@augustachronicle.com.