White Home eyes another step forward

The White Home in Rock Hill was built in the late 1830s. About $2 million is needed to finish renovation on the home.
The White Home in Rock Hill was built in the late 1830s. About $2 million is needed to finish renovation on the home.

The foundation is stable, a new roof is on and the freshly painted front porch resembles its 1800s glory. But plenty of work is left to do at the White Home.

Supporters are gearing up for a second fundraising push to continue rehabbing the stately old house on Elizabeth Lane in downtown Rock Hill. This time, they'll do the legwork themselves instead of hiring an outside consulting firm to seek out donors.

It starts next month, when Historic Rock Hill hosts a $100-per-couple oyster roast and barbecue on Oct. 25 as an unofficial kickoff to the new effort. The group also is offering sponsorships for the dozen or so gardens planned on the grounds. And donors can pay to have their names engraved on bricks that will one day form a promenade called Railroad Alley.

Tangible signs of progress

It's all part of a quest to raise about $2 million to finish what has been started at the city's oldest residence, built in the late 1830s by George and Ann White before Rock Hill officially existed.

With a homegrown approach organized at the local level, boosters hope they can put together enough money to keep the project moving forward.

"People are like, 'Well, when are you going to do something,' " said Lisa Hendrix, hired in March as development director for Historic Rock Hill. "Now, people can actually see things being done."

The most obvious work is the new front porch and facade, each of which can be seen from White Street. The front-side restoration is aimed, in part, at showing donors that progress is happening.

Fears of donor fatigue

Still, the second campaign poses new challenges, said Neily Pappas, a longtime member of Historic Rock Hill and one of the home's most ardent supporters.

Organizers will look to many of the same donors to give again, at a time when a number of other projects also are asking for money -- from Glencairn Garden down the street to Hightower Hall near McConnells to the planned Museum of Life and Environment along the Catawba River.

"It's worried me an awful lot, because there's so many campaigns going on in Rock Hill," Pappas said. "And all of them are wonderful projects. But people can only give so much."

Supporters hope the restored White Home can become a destination for day-trippers, joining the Armstrong-Mauldin House and Glencairn Garden as some of the must-see landmarks in Rock Hill.

They also want it to become a living museum for school groups, with programs similar to those at Historic Brattonsville. Finally, boosters envision the shaded, outdoor gardens as ideal spots for wedding parties and civic functions.

Local effort will help cash flow

The group raised about $1.7 million in its first campaign, including $250,000 each from the city of Rock Hill and York County Forever, a county group that preserves cultural, historic and natural resources. About $770,000 was spent on buying the property from the White family.

But as Pappas pointed out, much of the money also went to an Atlanta consulting firm hired to help coordinate fundraising efforts.

"They got a real good chunk of it," she said, explaining that a locally based campaign will allow more dollars to go toward restoration work. "We have enough people and enough expertise."

The 13-room house, built by George and Ann Hutchison White on 180 acres, was first occupied in 1839 and became home to five generations of the family. The property, now on three acres, includes the house, a cabin, a potato house and the remains of a stable.

Organizers had originally hoped to complete the work by the end of 2006.

"We're not trying to get ahead of ourselves here," said Wade Fairey, executive director of Historic Rock Hill. "We've still got a good deal of research to be done. We want to make sure we do our homework. This process takes a lot longer than most people think."

What: "A Pearl of an Evening" fall fundraiser at the White Home

When: Thursday, Oct. 25

Who: Tickets are $100 per couple and $60 per person

What: Oysters and barbecue for dinner, with a live and silent auction. Also, former Rock Hill Mayor Betty Jo Rhea will be honored during a special ceremony.

Tickets: Call Historic Rock Hill at 329-1020