One of the last landmarks of the old Evans community could be demolished if its owners close a business deal currently in negotiations.
The white clapboard building at the corner of North Belair and Washington roads, known most recently as Strictly Country, is under contract for sale, according to owner Rachel Robertson.
Robertson closed Strictly Country in March 2012 after operating the craft and gift shop for 25 years. At the time, Robertson said she wanted to preserve the historical value of the site and had no plans to sell.
Built about 1930, the structure served as a teachers’ cottage for the Evans School, the only school for Columbia County students at the time. The school, which sat on the opposite side of Washington Road, later became Evans High School and Evans Middle School before it too was sold for commercial development.
Robertson said that although a contract had been signed, there were still many details to be worked out and approvals to be sought from the county before the deal would close. She declined to say what sort of business would be built at the site, but the old teachers’ cottage would have to be torn down or moved to another location.
State Sen. Bill Jackson, R-Appling, said it would be a shame to lose one of the community’s few remaining historic structures.
“I would so much love to save the dormitory,” he said. “There’s a lot of history there. It’s just a beautiful old building.”
Jackson led the effort in 2005 and 2006 to save the old stone columns and arch that belonged to the Evans School, after that site was sold for development. Those structures were moved and now are behind the Columbia County Library. Stones used in the construction of the cottage, including its chimneys, are the same local field stones from which the Evans School’s arch and pillars were made.
Jackson said moving the columns and arch were fairly simple. Moving the teachers’ cottage is a much bigger and more expensive undertaking, he said. One problem is that the original historic structure has been altered and added to over the years. Those additions would have to be removed.
Jackson has already been making inquiries into where the building might go, if moving it is an option.
“Finding a place to put it where it would be visible and usable for the community is a big part of it,” he said. “That has been very difficult to find.”
Jackson said it would take a major community effort and a great deal of private investment to preserve the old structure.
Barry Paschal, former publisher of the News-Times, said he hopes the community can muster the effort to save the building.
“It’s sad to hear that the old teachers’ cottage could be demolished,” he said.
“That corner has really taken a beating in the past few years because of development.”
Paschal noted that the old Evans Presbyterian Church and the business known as Rountree’s store have already met with the wrecking ball to make way for new development.
“The teachers’ cottage is the last structure of historic significance still standing on a crossroads that once was the center of the Evans community, and when it’s gone, the intersection will look just like every other cookie-cutter commercial corridor in Anywhere, USA,” he said.