It appears that time is no longer on the side of the old Evans Teachers’ Cottage.
After weeks of working to put together a plan and the money to fund it, the “Save the Teachers’ Cottage” committee announced this week that they had given up on moving the nearly 100-year-old structure.
The group determined they needed $66,500 to demolish part of building and move the historic original cottage to school board property off of Columbia Road. That was “phase one” of a plan to move, restore and maintain the old building for community use.
Rob Nordan, committee member and representative of the Columbia County Historical Society said the group had committments for more than $36,000 of the initial amount needed, but that wasn’t going to be enough.
“We greatly appreciate the support from the community and investors,” Nordan said on Thursday. “However, we regret that we have not reached our financial goal. We, therefore, will not be proceeding with our Phase One.”
Nordan said that all the contrubutions that have been collected for the project will be returned.
Exactly what will happen next isn’t entirely determined, but it seems most likely that the cottage and adjoining structures will be torn down within a few weeks to make way for a new PDQ restaurant that has been announced for that location.
There are hopes that the new owners – who by all accounts were very willing to work with the group on moving the building – will try to incorporate some of the old Evans school memorbilia or photographs in the decor. It has also been suggested that some part of the structure or at least a historical marker will be put in place commemorating the site.
Admittedly, it seemed like moving the old building was a longshot. It was a worthwhile idea, but the amount of money involved -- well over $100,000 to move and restore the structure – not to mention yearly maintenance – seemed like an insurmountable obstacle from the beginning.
The underlying question is “how much is our history worth?”
With Columbia County growing at the pace we have seen over the past three decades, it is easy to understand how history gets bulldozed in the process. It takes a lot of thought, planning and an ongoing committment to an often difficult undertaking, to be successful at honoring and recognizing our collective past.
One significant factor has to do with our changing community.
Most of the people being added to Columbia County’s swelling population are from places far away from Evans or Harlem. They don’t have a local connection, and thus are less inclined to feel emotionally invested in local history. I really don’t know how you overcome that, but I do know the number of historic structures left in this county is finite. This one is lost. Maybe there was never a chance to save it.
But there will eventually come a day when the number of chances we have to save a piece of local history will finally run out.