Group aims to preserve unused historic schools

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Where a historic school once was nestled along the banks of the Augusta Canal, there is now little more than a vacant lot with a "for sale" sign.

The old John S. Davidson School is considered "architecturally and structurally" significant. Historic Augusta officials want to keep it and other school properties like it from being destroyed.  Chris Thelen/Staff
Chris Thelen/Staff
The old John S. Davidson School is considered "architecturally and structurally" significant. Historic Augusta officials want to keep it and other school properties like it from being destroyed.

The property had been the Lawton B. Evans School before the Richmond County school board sold it and the building was leveled.

"It was a beautiful and elegant building, designed by Willis Irvin," Historic Augusta Inc. Executive Director Erick Montgomery said.

He and other Historic Augusta members are concerned that other schools could soon meet the same fate.

The school board meets next week and could designate some of its schools as surplus property for sale.

Historic Augusta wants to offer its services so four schools under consideration are preserved in a manner that continues to benefit the community, similar to others that have been saved, said Tennent Houston, the organization's president.

He said the old John S. Davidson School, A.C. Griggs School, Martha Lester School and the old Sue Reynolds School are considered particularly "architecturally and culturally" significant because they were built with materials and craftsmanship not available today and contribute to the community's ambiance.

"We would love to provide our services to the school board to get the maximum value for the properties and to preserve their historic significance," Mr. Houston said.

With Historic Augusta's help, the Houghton School became a school again and the William Robinson School will be converted into condominiums.

The old Davidson, close to downtown hospitals, is "tailor-made" for residences, Mr. Houston suggested.

Frank Dolan, the chairman of the school board's finance committee, said he supports selling surplus properties.

"You've got to dispose of these properties like you would a gin rummy hand," he said. "You've got to get rid of the bad cards and keep the good cards."

But the board needs to make sure it won't need the property later, Mr. Dolan added.

The school board and the city could benefit when properties are sold if they fit into plans for redevelopment, he said.

Mr. Houston said he is encouraged by the progress being made downtown and the efforts to preserve old buildings.

It's a great time to "catch this wonderful wave," he said.

Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or greg.gelpi@augustachronicle.com.

SOLD PROPERTIES


Richmond County has disposed of many properties through the years -- some preserved, some not. Here's the fate of some of them.

CENTRAL GRAMMAR SCHOOL: Turned into a bank and now used for storage by First Presbyterian Church


FLEMING SCHOOL: Now houses Alleluia School


HECKLE STREET ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICES: General contractor offices


HOUGHTON SCHOOL: Now houses Heritage Academy


LAWTON B. EVANS SCHOOL: Torn down


PERRIN SCHOOL: Torn down


SPRINGFIELD SCHOOL: Torn down


WILLIAM ROBINSON SCHOOL: Being developed into condos


WOODLAWN SCHOOL: Torn down

Sources: Historic Augusta Inc. and Richmond County Board of Education

Comments (8) Add comment
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Augusta resident
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Augusta resident 02/16/08 - 03:38 am
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Where is the vacant lot for

Where is the vacant lot for sale on the canal?

Da Voice Inside Your Head
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Da Voice Inside Your Head 02/16/08 - 09:23 am
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Across from the Emergency

Across from the Emergency room entrance to university hospital, close to peabody Apts.

Da Voice Inside Your Head
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Da Voice Inside Your Head 02/16/08 - 09:31 am
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My question is, WHY do they

My question is, WHY do they let these buildings fall into total disrepair? The old Hephzibah Elementary School is a prime example. Are they waiting for it to fall totally apart before they try to sell it? They need to Mouthball these buildings like the Navy does ships. But if they are not going to be used then sell the BEFORE they start to fall down. Why not start remodeling these schools a little at a time.Then as more space is needed reopen them INSTEAD of building more costly NEW BUILDINGS?I'm sure everyone wants a new building, but tyhe purpose is to EDUCATE the children. If they had taken the money WASTED on NEW stadiumsx they could have built several new schools or remodeled several old ones. But No, that would make too much sense. Sowe still have kids in RATTY portables, But we have a flock of shiney new stadiums that get used for about three months a year. Boy that's one good coice.

a.non.ymous
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a.non.ymous 02/16/08 - 10:04 am
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What has become of the

What has become of the Davidson building is an utter disgrace. Sue Reynolds is headed in that direction. The SB needs to get off their duffs and sell them.

WW1949
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WW1949 02/16/08 - 11:54 am
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Rodger Giles owns the lot by

Rodger Giles owns the lot by the canal and Peabody. I think he is willing to develope it for the right person and lease it back.

SargentMidTown
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SargentMidTown 02/17/08 - 12:35 am
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Historic Harisburg and

Historic Harisburg and private investment
www.hongkongaugustaga.org

SargentMidTown
8
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SargentMidTown 02/17/08 - 12:50 am
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I watched the old John

I watched the old John Milledge school being torn down due to "elbow rubbing" between city officials and builders. The same chance for elbow rubbing exist now between the Harrisburg West End Neighborhood Association and other groups. This same group has a treasurer whos husband robed a bank in S.C.. He was arrested in front of his house on Baker Ave in Augusta. His last name is Spires. Shady,,,too shady. The group excludes people. The only reason that it exists that I can see is for grant writing. One good thing is that with proper awareness sleazy non profits like this will not get very far as long as they have public scrutiny.
The old john Milledge was far more grand than the schools mentioned above.

escow
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escow 02/19/08 - 10:49 am
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I believe the Davidson School

I believe the Davidson School had a buyer a few years ago for medical office flex space and that sale was subverted by the past powers at the school board. Now the once architecturally significant school has a roof that has fallen through the 2nd floor with structural elements exposed to weather. Historic Augusta having an epiphany to ride in and save the day is akin to realizing your pregnant when you’re in labor. What does this statement mean “…get the maximum value for the properties...”?

A facility that is no longer viable for renovation will not bring a premium price from a future owner/developer. Historic Augusta imposed constraints on future development of this building will make economically infeasible to renovate. The board should take serious offers for sale of these properties that are no longer useable for schools. They should not involve Historic Augusta. Augusta should hope for a developer, with enough capital, is interested in saving a wonderful building. Historic Augusta should strive to be more proactive in lieu of reactive and maybe they would be able to truly fulfill their mission.

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