Rachel Robertson has lived her entire life in Columbia County and in some ways is glad to see development moving to the county.
In other ways, though, Robertson, the owner of Strictly Country at Washington and Belair roads, said it's sad to see the development replace so many buildings and history in the Evans area.
"There's history here, people moving in just don't realize," said Robertson, who grew up and still lives on property one mile from the busy intersection where her store has operated for 19 years. "If anybody had told me there would be a school on Hereford Farm Road, we called it Lewiston Road ... I just can't believe it."
That new middle school, scheduled to open in the fall, will replace the current Evans Middle School. The pillars and arch are the only remnants of the original schoolhouse built in 1927. The school was destroyed by fire in 1955, and a new Evans High School was built in its place at Belair and Washington roads. When a new Evans High was built on Cox Road in 1980, the school became Evans Middle.
"I remember when the school burned down. We'd been up there to some kind of play," Robertson said. She distinctly remembers very hot coal-burning heaters backstage that could have started the fire. "The next day, we didn't have a school."
A group of developers bought the property from the school board in May 2004. It plans to raze the school building in the summer to make way for a shopping center.
Evans Presbyterian Church, which was built in the mid-1930s, backs up to the Evans Middle School property. The church property went up for sale last month and also is to become commercial property when it sells.
A building that has stood empty and dilapidated for many years near Belair and Washington roads formerly housed Rountree's grocery store and also is to disappear soon.
Robertson said the store started near the Old Evans Road railroad tracks less than a mile from its previous location. The grocery, which for a long time was the only one in the Evans area, was started and operated by William Rountree and his family.
"The only place to go was Rountree's," Robertson said. Her parents would buy groceries on a tab and pay it at the end of the month when her father got paid. "I thought the world of Mr. Rountree."
Jeff Browning, Columbia County's planning director, says the building will soon disappear in light of a new Lowe's Home Improvement store being built in the vicinity.
Security Land and Development Corp. purchased a large lot at Belair and Washington roads to build the Lowe's, including the small lot on which the former Rountree's building now stands.
"They are doing some site prep on that site already," Browning said. "I suspect they will get under way in just a few months, when they get final approval (on site plans and permits)."
Tracker Jack's, a small archery and sporting goods shop operated by Jack Woods at Furys Ferry and North Belair roads, closed last year and also will be replaced. The store was open for nearly 15 years before the property was purchased by Chris Cunningham last September.
Cunningham, president of Wifesaver Inc., hopes to break ground in the next two months on a Wifesaver restaurant at the property.
"There's a lot of long history here," Browning said of the county. Most of the history lies in more agricultural and plantation areas, he said.
Robertson said she's sad to see some of the old landmark buildings disappear to make way for development. At the same time, she said, she considers the county blessed.
"I just can't believe how Evans has grown ...," Robertson said. "I'm proud we're getting the doctors offices and all that. It could have been a lot worse."
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