Two buildings that date back to the early 1900s will now be demolished on the site of North Augusta’s planned new public safety headquarters and court operations building.
The historic buildings on the Flythe/Seven Gables property on Georgia Avenue at Observatory Avenue were part of a hunting lodge built by North Augusta’s founder, James U. Jackson. The lodge was lost in a 1916 fire. Historic North Augusta and the Punch and Judy Theater had both expressed interest in restoring and using the two structures.
However, City Administrator Jim Clifford’s update to council at the May 23 study session included a statement from Historic North Augusta that read in part:
“After considerable deliberation, HNA, Inc. has decided not to pursue restoration of the Flythe properties with the P&J Players… HNA, Inc. will now concentrate its efforts of completing the work on the Society Building in Carrsville.”
Clifford said they had had meetings with HNA along with the city’s head of building standards and Johnson, Laschober and Associates, the engineering and architectural firm working on the project.
“Those facilities cannot be adequately restored. They currently do not sit in compliance with city code. If these buildings were in private property, we would have code enforcement down there giving them notices. So, based on the feedback we’ve got from Historic North Augusta, and the rules that we have in place with capital project sales tax for funding, which only allows for the building of the public safety headquarters, we’re going to have to do something about those buildings,” he said.
Clifford recommended applying for demolition permits to raze the buildings. City crews will do the work. He did not have a timeline for when demolition would begin.
“The key timeline will be the acquisition of the demolition permit and lining up the city crews for the work. I’m certainly hopeful we’ll have them down by the end of the summer,” he said.
Council members asked what would be done with the bricks from the legacy buildings with some suggestions being to offer them to the public or give them to the Arts and Heritage Center.
“My opinion on that, we’d like for people to have bricks, but there will not be enough bricks,” said Councilwoman Pat Carpenter. “I would suggest taking those bricks to make our marker to show people that that was part of the, you know, Seven Gables, the Hampton Hotel. Use those bricks on that property some way.”
Discussions on what to do with the property date back more than six years, when the city bought the Flythe and Seven Gables properties. Originally a new Fire Station 1 was to be built there, but that project was moved to Martintown Road at Observatory Avenue.
The city had planned to build the new public safety headquarters on East Buena Vista Avenue near the current headquarters. However, since the plan was presented to council in September 2020, site and construction cost estimates increased by about $850,000 more than the location on Georgia Avenue.
Richard Fletcher of Cheatum Fletcher Scott Architects and Design, and administrator of the North Augusta 20/20 Facebook group, said the property was never offered for public sale.
“The City approached the owner directly and bought the two properties and 1903 vintage structures, never so much as putting a tarp over them to protect them from the elements. No private investor ever had a chance to buy and restore these properties,” he said. “The best hope for these authentic Tudor Revival diamonds in the rough is for someone with deep pockets to step up and give the community a wonderful gift. My firm would love to work with anyone with the vision to make this happen.”
Clifford said removing the structure on the corner will improve sight for motorists turning from Observatory Avenue to Georgia Avenue. The location of the building farther down Observatory will remain a greenspace, be it a garden or another type of greenspace based on citizen requests.
As for the project overall, Clifford said they have completed the schematic designs and are 80% complete with the design development phase. He believes the final phase of architectural drawings will be complete within 30 days.
“JLA is working with South Carolina Department of Transportation, and they have commissioned an updated traffic study,” he said. “This will be the final traffic study, to take a look at what we’re doing there, and what the impacts will be and recommendations we may get from them.”
Council members also got to see the four updated artist renderings for the final project.
Clifford hopes to put the project out for bid later this summer, with a groundbreaking ceremony before the end of the year.