Saving Historic Warehouse

Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor:

Over the years we have heard many splendid ideas come from our citizens on how we might make our community a little bit better. Some people desire an open-air market, like the one in Charleston, where the Saturday participants of the Farmer’s Market and other vendors can set up out of the weather. Others long for an exhibition hall where events like “juried arts competitions” and an “Arts on Fire” festival might be held. Then, there are individuals who have strongly suggested that this town needs a proper folk art museum, highlighting the talented local 2D and 3D artists who reside in our county, especially Southern potters. Therefore, why do we not have one central place to showcase the arts and artifacts that made this town what it is?

Keeping this in mind, we have recently become aware of the fact that a beautifully built two-story building, with 16-inch thick brick walls and in need of roof repair, is about to be torn down and lost forever. In only a few years, we could be celebrating the centennial anniversary of the largest cotton warehouse in our town. Built in 1919, the warehouse, right at the end of the rail trail, was constructed by Mr. W. W. Adams to help farmers store the mountains of cotton that poured into Edgefield from the surrounding countryside. Senator J. Strom Thurmond would have been just seventeen years old when he saw endless trains of wagons bringing their cotton in to be stored in this building that had the largest square footage of storage in town. Once there, the cotton was stored until it was loaded onto trains headed for Augusta and beyond.

Mr. Adams was such an enterprising man that he had a state-of-the-art sprinkler system installed in his warehouse to protect the stored cotton. It was bragged in The Edgefield Advertiser, on 15 November 1911, that “the Adams warehouse now has fire protection equal to any of the large cotton warehouses of the cities.” The first warehouse (now occupied by Piedmont Technical College) was built in 1907, but thirteen years later, Mr. Adams was experiencing space limitations. The Edgefield Advertiser, on 16 April 1919, reported that “Mr. W. W. Adams is doubling the capacity of his large warehouse near the station. Edgefield county farmers will have an abundance of storage room for their cotton next fall.”

It seems a sad affair to lose a building block of history when we might use it to build the future. Why not put a new roof on such a building and use it like the open air market in Charleston? Why shouldn’t we seek out grants to rebuild the second floor and showcase the relics and highlight the new arts of our community? Why not create a place where artists, vendors, and buyers can come rain or shine, from down town or from down the rail trail from the National Wild Turkey Federation? There are so many reasons that a building like this can be re-purposed. The warehouse should not only be saved from destruction, but it should also be put to good use.

When we think of history, we think of preservation. Moreover, when someone sees the sign stating “Historic Edgefield” up ahead, we hope that if they came all this way, they might find some actual history here. However, the only way you get to keep history is if you preserve it. That is why places like Charleston enacted preservation laws to keep every building older than 75 years from being torn down. We wish our historic town would follow Charleston’s lead and keep these buildings in use. By their use, they become loved and when they are loved, people make the effort to take care of them and that is all history really needs to keep going—for someone to take care of and preserve what is already there.

 

Max Shanks
Edgefield, S.C.

One Response to "Saving Historic Warehouse"

  1. Brian Corry   May 15, 2015 at 11:39 am

    Hello,
    My name is Brian Corry and I am a clay artist who has recently moved from Texas to North Alabama. I love all kinds of art, art history and history, in general. I recently finished a wonderful book titled “Carolina Clay: the life and legend of Dave the slave potter” by Leonard Todd. This book introduced me to a courageous potter, as well as the rich history of Edgefield and Pottersville. Being a clay artist myself who loves firing wood kilns, I am even more drawn to the creative process of making my works when I research these histories.
    I happened upon this article while researching alkaline glazes and groundhog kilns. This article through the ‘Edgefield Advertiser’ intrigues me to such motivation that I thought perhaps I might share with you an old weaving mill (and later, a shoe factory) that has been rejuvenated to accompany local artists, located in Huntsville, Alabama. You might consider looking into what the did with this mill as a business model for your historic warehouse. In Huntsville, the old Lowe Mill has more than a hundred artists in its location. It essentially is a wonderful location for all kinds of visitors and artisans to work and sell their work. You might consoder taking a look at what they have done as it sounds like you might be able to use the historic warehouse you described and put it to good use in a similar way that Lowe Mill has in Huntsville, Al. I have no association with Lowe Mill aside from visiting there once or twice and considered being a renter and offering workshops myself, but I certainly do plan on visiting Edgefield in the near future and I would love to learn of how the warehouse was repurposed in a manner that helped your artistic community. If you have any questions or need any further articles or information, I can send you more details if you like.
    Feel free to reach me at r_test@hotmail.com. I would love to learn that a historical building such is your warehouse has been repurposed for your community of creative talents. I have always beleived that bringing art and art history and history together is important to our past, present and our future.
    Thank you for your time and attention.
    Brian Corry