Originally created 03/17/04

County Board of Education tries to save historic cottage



Going once. Going twice.

It's close to gone, but the Richmond County Board of Education wants to let the public know a historic cottage outside Gracewood Elementary School is about to be demolished in the name of progress. If anyone has money to move it and restore it, the school board says now is the time to speak up.

The tin-roof cottage with gray cedar siding dates to the 1920s and has served as schoolhouse, clubhouse, classroom, cafeteria and storage room. But it stands in the way of impending construction at the school on Tobacco Road, and it would cost the district $70,000 just to move it.

Still, its sentimental value is clearly understood to some school officials, including board President Jeff Padgett and maintenance director Marvin Powell. They were classmates at the school in the 1950s and ate lunch in the one-story cottage.

"Ms. (Gladys) Rosier made the best peanut butter and jelly sandwiches," Mr. Padgett said this week as he toured the cottage and reminisced with Mr. Powell.

"The old lunch line used to go right there, didn't it?" he asked his former classmate.

"You're testing my memory now," Mr. Powell said.

Mr. Powell's parents, grandparents and great-grandparents also have ties to the school and cottage. He said his great-grandfather, E.C. Cadle, used a horse and buggy to take children to the school.

Once called the Bungalow Community House, the two-room structure was used for years as a cafeteria, according to a centennial booklet recounting the school's history. Pupils would bring pails, and lunchroom workers would pour syrup into the bottom and place a biscuit on top. A piece of fatback, steak or other meat might also be added.

Over the years, it was used as a classroom to teach music and physical education classes. The school also allowed community groups to use it for activities such as Cub Scouts.

Classes were held in the "bungalow" until 1988 , and the YMCA used it for programs before and after school.

More recently, it has become a storage facility ñ a dumping ground for old desks, computers and filing cabinets. Asbestos was removed a few years ago, and electricity no longer flows inside. Old chalkboards remain on the walls with girls' names still visible.

School officials have talked with Historic Augusta and Georgia Forestry officials to see if there is any interest in the building. But there have been no takers thus far, and school officials worry that the building has seen its end.

If that is the case, Gracewood Principal Mary Braswell said, there is talk of creating a mural of the building or selling its bricks.

Mr. Powell said officials once talked about applying to get the cottage on the National Register of Historic Places. Now, it looks like it might be reduced to rubble.

"I'm a softie, I guess. Not every building needs to be saved, but this has personality," Mr. Powell said.

"I'd love to see it somewhere else if someone could use it."

Reach Greg Rickabaugh at (706) 828-3851 or greg.rickabaugh@augustachronicle.com.