A Lake Wylie group trying to save an early 20th century schoolhouse from demolition may be out of time.
The Good Samaritan United Methodist Church is moving forward with plans to demolish the schoolhouse and another building located on its property, something Pastor Jason Everson says has been in the church’s plans for a while.
“They’re basically eyesores, and they’re blocking the view of our property,” he said. “It’s a curb-appeal kind of thing. We don’t need them anymore.”
After a meeting with York County officials Friday, the church will apply for a demolition permit. Everson hopes the church can begin demolition Monday or Tuesday, he said.
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That doesn’t leave much time for Don Long and other River Hills and Lake Wylie residents eager to save the schoolhouse, which they believe to be the historic Laney School built in 1914.
The schoolhouse sits between the church and S.C. 274/S.C. 49, just south of S.C. 557, and overlooks the highway.
The group, called the Laney School Preservation Project, wants to move the building to property owned by the River Hills Community Association.
There, they hope to renovate it into a community center for public meetings, events and a small museum telling the history of the Lake Wylie area, something it hasn’t had since Duke Energy closed its visitors center, Long said.
Long said moving and renovating the schoolhouse will cost less than building a new structure, and it will save a piece of Lake Wylie’s history.
They asked the York County Council earlier this month for about $200,000 from hospitality tax dollars, which must be used for tourism projects, to pay for the move and renovation.
And since Lake Wylie – the fastest growing region in unincorporated York County – contributes to the county’s hospitality tax coffers, “maybe we ought to get a little of that back,” Long said.
A committee of the county’s tourism bureau, which administers the grants, endorsed the project and recommended that the County Council approve the project’s $26,000 first phase to move the building, and consider approving the remaining dollars for renovation at a later date.
But having questions about the project, the council tabled the proposal until its next meeting.
Since then, Long said the group has decided to revisit its application to address concerns the River Hills Community Association, where Long serves on the board, and the County Council raised over whether investments would ensure the building’s renovation and ongoing operation after it’s moved.
Ken Gerken, president of the River Hills Community Association, said the board is awaiting answers to its questions before weighing in on the group’s request to move the building to River Hills.
Stakes in the ground map out a proposed location, but no formal decisions have been made about the project.
If approved, the building will have to meet “the same standards as would any other construction project within River Hills,” Gerken said.
Long’s group is applying for nonprofit status so it can accept donations for operational expenses.
It will bring the application back before the committee and the county for approval in a few weeks – that is, if the building is still standing, Long said.
Lake Wylie resident Margarett Blackwell said she’s always thought the building was interesting as she drove by.
She joined the effort to save the building about six weeks ago, when she learned the church wanted to demolish it.
“It’s extremely important to preserve history,” Blackwell said, adding that the community needs a meeting place.
“I understand that they have a deadline, but at the same time I wish the church would work with us,” she said.
Researchers at the McCelvey Center in York, part of York County’s Culture and Heritage Museums, helped find documents related to the school’s history.
The Historical Center there houses archived documents and a library for doing York County historical and genealogical research.
The Laney School appears in a photograph in a 1914 issue of the Yorkville Enquirer.
The article says the school was the result of the consolidation of the Bellview and Point schools in the Bethel Township. It was constructed from “Clemson plans” and cost $1,200. It had an enrollment of 60 students.
The Laney School operated seven months a year, according to the article.
From the photograph, the building resembles that which stands today, except there were enclosures, likely cloak rooms, in the photograph where there is now an open porch.
A mid-1930s report compiled by Margaret Little Ford says the school was built in 1914 “near Wright’s Crossroads.”
On a 1910 map of the area where the Laney School sits, the cartographers marked “Wright Quart” – which means “quarter” or crossroads, said Michael Scoggins, a Culture and Heritage Museums historian.
Together, the bits and pieces form a narrative of the schoolhouse and the region and families who surrounded it.
But historic homes and buildings like the schoolhouse are lost all the time “to make room” for future generations, Scoggins said.
When situations similar to the Laney School arise, Scoggins said, the bigger question is “Who is going to save it?”
Enough time already
The Good Samaritan United Methodist Church is ready to move forward on a project Everson, the pastor, says has been lingering for three years since he arrived.
Everson said they’ve tried to give the building away, putting up “two big signs” indicating they were free to whoever could move them off the property. Despite a lot of interest in the buildings from groups and individuals, none of the plans worked out.
The county thought about moving both buildings to a recreation site for use there, but considering the costs, decided against it, County Manager Jim Baker said.
Anything short of someone pulling up next week with a truck to carry the building away won’t stop the church’s plans, Everson said.
Extending the timeframe to next week won’t be enough time, said Long, who said he’s doesn’t understand the church’s rush.
Among the steps that need to occur before moving the building are constructing a foundation to set it on and coordinating with state and local agencies and utility companies for the move.
Trying to stop the demolition “may all be academic,” Long said. “We need the church to say, ‘OK, we’ll give you 90 days to get it out of here.’”
“I can keep plodding along and getting the approvals and everything, but it’s useless if the church won’t give us more time.”