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Progress has little regard for local history

Posted: September 29, 2013 - 12:03am

Growth, expansion, opportunity, prosperity – all are words used freely when people discuss the fortunes of Columbia County over the past two decades and its prospects for years to come.

When I arrived in the Augusta area 18 years ago, people were then talking about all the changes that had occurred in Columbia County. That subject of conversation hasn’t changed much since.

Land gets cleared, roads get built and rooftops and parking lots fill in all the gaps. The influx of new residents – I’m guessing around 40,000 or more during that time – have been driving that growth and seeking to take part in the county’s success story. I have something in common with all these new residents, I’m not from here, either.

I don’t really know what Evans or Martinez or Appling was like 40 years ago. I can imagine some of it, but the evidence of what those communities looked like and how we once lived has been erased by the bulldozer.

That’s progress, right?

Which brings me to the latest bit of news from the land of progress – the prospect that one of Evans’ last historic structures could face destruction to make way for new development. The old teachers’ cottage at North Belair and Washington roads, which served as a dorm for female teachers for the old Evans School, is about to be sold and leveled.

On one hand, it’s private property and the family that owns it has every right to develop the property or sell it to another business. I have no argument against that.

Still, it seems a shame that such a unique piece of local history – simple and humble as it may be – will likely become the site of another chain restaurant or retail store with no true local ties.

I’m not from here, but I am from somewhere – Cohutta, Ga. to be more exact – and I know how sad it is to see the character and flavor of local places I have loved to be paved over by the banality of progress.

Perhaps the community can come together to save the old structure. Perhaps it will prove too expensive and unworkable. We shall see.

But our local leaders need to take a long look at what remains from our history and what can still be saved. We need to temper our headlong charge of progress with some contemplation about the community we will leave in our wake when we look back some 20 years hence.

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Comments (1)

Riverman1

Save the House

Great column. Save the house. Charleston in the 1960s tore down a valued historic building because Sears wanted to build a store there. Well, look what happened. The Sears store closed while Charleston became a tourist Mecca mainly because of its history. National organizations have deemed it the number one best place to visit in continental America. (Yeah, Hawaii is hard to top.)

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