A major supporter of saving the former Whittemore Primary School was upbeat Monday night after Conway City Council voted to work to save the school which was built to serve African Americans.
“We will rise to the challenge,” Reverend Cheryl Moore Adamson said after a special two-hour meeting with the council.
At one point, city officials held a series of meetings where citizens used to give ideas on how the old building could be restored and used, but the building sat vacant for several years and it has resulted in mold damage. The building also contains asbestos and city councilors have given figures of between $14 million and $20 million to save it.
The final decision Monday night was to put out a request for proposals for people to put forward proposals to restore the building. The life of the proposal will be up to two years, although city administrator Adam Emrick says tenders can be reinstated if necessary.
If a proposal that the city and the community like arrives before two years, the city can accept it and move forward with the restoration.
After learning that the building was about to be demolished, Adamson set to work contacting people who could help him. She brought in Conway native Michael Allen, who is now an architect; Dr. Carolyn Dillian, an archaeologist at Coastal Carolina University; and Victoria Smalls, executive director of the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission of Johns Island, all of whom supported the restoration of the building.
Conway Mayor Barbara Blain-Bellamy said she thinks there’s a consensus that people want the building to be used for projects and classes that promote personal development.
Some ideas that were suggested address mental health issues, prepare people for employment, find ways to help people in their jobs, and have a place to address workforce issues.
Adamson said there are 35 buildings/properties in Horry County that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Twenty of these are located in Conway, but none of them are of overriding significance to the African-American community.
The Old Whittemore School was deemed eligible for National Historic Recognition.
City staff will present their request for proposals to council at their next meeting on February 7 for approval.
City spokeswoman June Wood said that when a proposal appeals to council, it will be presented to the public whose members will have ample time to comment on it.
About 20 people attended Monday’s meeting to show their support for the old school.
Emrick said he was assured that the building’s mold and asbestos were not creating any health problems for the surrounding community. But one concern is that people have broken into the building, and it may harm them.