When the original Evans High School building burned down nearly 50 years ago, its replacement was made of brick and mortar. The only surviving relic of the original structure is a series of stone pillars and arches, built with the same rock as the Teacher's Cottage across the street.
That cottage is now a privately owned gift shop, lovingly preserved while put to good use by long-time Columbia County residents Vince and Rachel Robertson. Across the newly widened Washington Road, however, the pillars and arches stand along the edge of what soon could be one of the county's hottest retail sites.
The land, now used by Evans Middle School, will soon go up for sale as developers salivate over the prospects of turning the 21 acres of prime real estate into commercial or professional property in the heart of fast-growing Evans. The school system will use the money, along with funds from the state, to relocate the school closer to the heart of its attendance zone.
But what about the pillars and the arch? When the school site is abandoned, what happens to the historical relics of a bygone era?
That's a concern of some Evans High graduates who've begun worrying about the pillars' fate - people like Woody Highsmith, a history and heritage buff, and Gina Annis, wife of Superior Court Judge Mike Annis.
There are a couple of suggestions on the table: One would preserve the pillars and the arch right where they are, perhaps surrounding each of them with a protective fence and erecting a commemorative plaque to explain their meaning. The problem is that the stone structures take up a good bit of space, and keeping them in place could diminish the value of the property by restricting part of its use.
Another idea would be to move the arch and pillars a couple of miles away, erecting them at the site of the current Evans High on Cox Road. That would keep the structures on a protected school site rather than leaving them behind on private property. Or, the arch and pillars could be erected as the focal point for the county's new Memorial Gardens just a couple of blocks away.
The problem with either of these scenarios is that the arch and pillars could be damaged in transit, and they'd be removed from their physical, historical site.
The structures' future isn't yet carved in stone, but one thing is sure: School officials aren't going to let the community lose the arch and pillars. "At this point we don't have a firm idea of what we will do; but I will assure you that they will be saved and preserved in some way," says School Superintendent Tommy Price.
The community may need to come to the rescue to provide donations of time and labor to protect or move the structures. With the school system's blessing and the public's support, the relics of the old Evans High School will remain a symbol of Columbia County's history.
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