The roof of the Kiwanis Pancake House was heavily damaged during high winds on March 3, 2020. In optimistic and encouraging preparations for the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair in the fall, the work has begun on repairs.
The Kiwanis Club of Statesboro has contracted with Quicken Steel of Claxton for the replacement of the roof over the Pancake House. Demolition of the old roof and wooden framework began on Saturday, April 25. The new roof will extend over the entire Pancake House, including the open dining area as well as the kitchen and storage room. The new roof system will be of all steel construction. There are also plans for more seating spaces. It’s expected that the roof will be completed by late May.
The Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair is scheduled for October 19-21, 2020, so mark your calendar!
Property developer Scott Taylor is not just concerned with renovating the packinghouse building; he also cares deeply about renovating its dark story. Legend tells that the owner of the packinghouse, Brooks Simmons, tragically lost his fortune in the Great Depression and was so consumed by despair that he locked his employees in the building and set it on fire, before taking his own life.
Taylor assures us that this is simply not true. The packinghouse was built in 1917 with resources pooled from 600 different investors, not a solitary owner. When the packinghouse closed in 1920, it constituted a deep financial loss for those involved. Brooks Simmons did serve as the president of the Bulloch Packing Company for a time, as well as the Bank of Statesboro which he inherited from his father. He eventually lost the bank after the stock market crash of 1929, nearly ten years after the packinghouse closed. Simmons did take his own life, but at his home in Atlanta.
Yet, urban legends have tremendous staying power. The building’s spooky aesthetic and haunted reputation make it a popular film location for post-apocalyptic and horror films by Georgia Southern and SCAD students. Last October the Georgia Southern Football team used the location to shoot a video unveiling their new uniforms. Inspired by the movie It, the video has been viewed almost 140,000 times!
At the outset of the project, Taylor sought historical expertise from Georgia Southern alumnus, Miranda Hazelwood. Hazelwood, who was a senior history major at the time, conducted research not just on the packinghouse, but the history of the property itself all the way back to the mid 1800s. Taylor also purchased an old house adjacent to the packinghouse property, which he is actively engaged in renovating. The old home likely belonged to a tenant farmer on the property well before the Bulloch County Packing Company acquired it.
Taylor wants to incorporate the rich history of the property into his vision for the new apartment spaces that will fill the old building. He envisions an open green space around the apartments with historical signage, telling the story of the packinghouse, Simmons, and dispelling the old lore. He says that he wants to provide a sense of resolution by bringing the packinghouse back to something aspirational, as it was when it began, rather than something negative.
Check out https://www.facebook.com/ThePackinghouseProject/ for updates and pictures of the process. You can see the uniform-reveal video that was filmed at the site here: https://www.wtoc.com/2019/10/29/eagles-reveal-alternate-helmets-with-it-inspired-video/.
Locals have all heard the legend of the old Packinghouse. Many have seen the large, hulk of a building, the remnant of an industrial past. Yet this building that has been largely empty for 100 years may soon get a second chance. Georgia Southern alumnus Scott Taylor is a property developer who moved back to Statesboro from the New York area. He purchased the building several years ago and has big ideas to breath new life into what has long stood dead and lifeless.
Taylor saw the property late in 2015 when it came up for sale. “At first I was not one hundred percent sure,” he said, “but I loved the unique industrial style of the building.” Taylor has been cleaning out the packinghouse and plans to convert it into unique apartments. Taylor was inspired by the revitalized industrial style of New York City’s former meatpacking district.
He admits that the biggest challenge for the project is the “sheer size of the building.” He has extensive experience in investment property renovation and development, but this was his largest project yet. The inside of the building needed to be cleared of all debris and cleaned out. He certainly faced a challenge freeing the building that was “entombed in kudzu.” Taylor said “It was like cleaning up after a hundred-year-old party” with cans, trash, and bottles strewn across the interior and graffiti scrawled over the walls.
After the clean-up phase, Taylor did the initial layout plan himself. “It was a challenge to create functional spaces and designs that make sense within the existing footprint,” he says. “But it was kind of fun to see a design that would work to repurpose the building into something cool and aesthetically pleasing.” Taylor has big hopes for the future of this iconic Statesboro landmark. Optimistically, he says that renovation and construction plans could start as early as this summer and be finished within ten months. He says “ I think people will be impressed and pleased with the result.”
Story to be continued in Part II…
In the chronicle of Statesboro lore, many remember the legendary nightclub, The Flame. Situated off of Chandler Road, the somewhat notorious nightspot opened Friday, November 13, 1970 and catered specifically to Georgia Southern students, faculty and staff. A group of Statesboro investors called College Center Incorporated conceived of the establishment. When the club opened, patrons could pay five dollars per month or two dollars for admission as a non-member. Over the years, The Flame became a venue for local and regional bands like The Critical Mass and Wheatstone Mission.
The November 24, 1970 edition of the George-Anne covered the opening weekend. A description of the interior decor is enough to take you straight back to the days of disco:
“The color scheme includes cadet blue, oxblood gold, and lime green. An optical illusion of vertical stripes is behind the bar. The entire club has blue-green carpeting, except for the green-checkered dance floor.” In addition to visual stimulation courtesy of the decor, the club featured pool tables, pinball machines, a jukebox, and a bar serving affordable libations. By catering to the university crowd exclusively, the Flame provided a space for students to blow off steam, decompress after classes, and enjoy live music and entertainment. One writer called it “the closest Statesboro has to big city entertainment ” in 1977.
The club had the tragic fate of living up to its namesake and burning down not once, but twice. It also came under fire (figuratively this time) for its lack of parking, and contribution to dangerous pedestrian traffic off of Chandler Road. With its demise, many students and alumni lamented the loss of their favorite haunt and an iconic piece of campus life. Whether alumni called it “The Flame” or its “classier” nickname “Le Club Flambeau,” many who attended Georgia Southern in the 1970s and 1980s remember the club as an iconic facet of campus culture.”
Holiday Inn University Area is still open for business, especially for healthcare workers in need of a comfortable place to stay. They are offering a special rate to any healthcare worker who lets them know who they are when they check-in.
The hotel has also been recently renovated and we were sent a preview of the new rooms!
Single King Room
Double Queen Room
Single Executive King Room
And here’s a sneak peek of the amenities that will be open and ready for use as soon as the current situation clears up!
Although Emma’s is closed, they do have a grab-and-go breakfast option.
Holiday Inn Pool
Last year marked a momentous date in American history: four hundred years since Africans first set foot on North American shores in 1619. Early in 2019, Willow Hill Heritage and Renaissance Center in Portal, GA decided that they would commemorate this by conducting tours of all thirty-four known African American cemeteries in Bulloch County. This series, called “If These Cemeteries Could Talk,” usually consists of one tour per month. Tours frequently begin at a church, garnering participation from local ministers, church members, and other attendees from the community. After an introductory program, everyone heads into the cemetery to hear the stories of those buried there, with emphasis on formerly enslaved people. Now, a year and a half later, Willow Hill has conducted fifteen tours, with nineteen still remaining.
However, Dr. Alvin Jackson, the board president at Willow Hill, quickly saw that COVID-19 was changing those plans. “ We realized it was not a good idea to have a lot of individuals meeting. We wanted to maintain social distancing and mitigate exposure to the coronavirus.” Therefore, Willow Hill decided to move the cemetery tour series completely online.
Fortunately, this transition was not too difficult, as they already made use of Facebook live to broadcast the tours to those who could not attend in person. Since the pandemic, it has become their main platform to disseminate information to the public. Dr. Jackson and one or two knowledgeable people (at a safe distance) conduct a tour through a given cemetery, highlighting individual people buried there. Meanwhile his daughter Wiloise Jackson Harper records the video which she broadcasts live on the Facebook page.
Dr. Jackson says that the online version of the project has reached people that otherwise could not have attended the tours. A great number of African American residents left Bulloch County for cities in the North and Midwest during the late 1800s and early 1900s. This movement is known as the Great Migration. Through these video tours, people whose families have long left Bulloch County are able to reconnect with their family’s history and learn more about the lives of their ancestors.
“Facebook Live tours will continue until the pandemic is over and we know it is safe to allow people to come back,” Dr. Jackson says. “It is our way of protecting individuals.” In addition to the tours, Dr. Jackson is also creating research guides for each cemetery.
People can find the online tours at Willow Hill’s Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/WHHRC/. Their most recent video tour is of Cone Cemetery in Ivanhoe, Georgia. The programs for the tours are all available online through Digital Commons at Georgia Southern’s Henderson Library.”
Splash in the Boro – the waterpark at Mill Creek Park – has been serving the Bulloch County community since it opened in 2004. Its most recent expansion in 2017 added a wave pool, additional concession stand, as well as a children’s splash area.
While the waterpark is open only during summer’s long, sunny days, Splash in the Boro serves the community all year round through a variety of services. They provide aerobics classes and swimming lessons throughout the year, courtesy of two covered pools. A partnership with the county’s schools provides facilities for their swim teams to practice.
Current manager Justin Blanton says that it is all due to the effort of his predecessor. “He was the one who did work and research in the community to determine that a waterpark would drive revenue in the county.” Blanton said that he was sure the idea sounded “crazy” at first, but the department “worked at it to eventually convince the board of commissioners.”
Splash in the Boro is currently closed, in compliance with state orders. Blanton says that he is still optimistic for the summer season. There are still plenty of sunny days ahead for Splash in the Boro.
If you have walked along the left hand side of East Main street towards Statesboro’s downtown, you may have noticed that the wall of 48 East Main facing the alley has a new look.
Charleston-based artist David Boatwright painted the new mural that now adorns a spot that used to be bare brick. Boatwright was approached by the Bulloch County Historical Society with the idea for the mural and specified the moment in time that they wanted him to capture.
The mural depicts the moment that Statesboro’s residents received word by train that the college had been funded, a moment that changed the history of the town. A nearby historical marker tells the story of “ The Fabulous Fifty of 1906.” In December of that year, fifty delegates from Bulloch County traveled by train to Savannah. Their quest: to secure Bulloch County as the spot for the district’s first Agricultural and Mechanical School. The mural depicts their triumphant return to Statesboro having secured the winning bid.
Boatwright and his associate Michael Kuffel spent several weeks in Statesboro painting the mural.
The artist used an old photograph of the train station to form the basic image.
Boatwright has been doing hand-painted signage and murals since the 1990s. He says that ever since, demand for such pieces has increased. When asked the reason for such a boom, he said “It is absolutely a reaction to the digital revolution. Digital signs are visually crisp and perfect, but there is something about hand-painted, custom work that has more value now than it has ever had.”
“…there is something about hand-painted, custom work that has more value now than it has ever had.”
-David Boatwright, Mural Artist
If you are looking for a way to get some fresh air while social distancing, take a walk along East Main street and check out the mural. Lose yourself in the festive atmosphere of the train station scene and an occasion that changed Statesboro forever.
Bulloch County has had four “courthouses” since its establishment in the first decade of the nineteenth century. The first was a small wooden building constructed in 1803 that served the legal needs of residents in the largely agricultural county. A second wooden building served as the courthouse until it burned down as Sherman’s troops marched through the area in 1864. The two-story structure built to replace it served the community until 1894. In that year, the residents of Statesboro voiced their opinion that the current building was no longer meeting the legal needs of the county, and they needed a newer, bigger courthouse.
The architectural firm Bruce and Morgan designed the new building. Since the original allocation of funds for the courthouse did not provide for a clock tower or bell, the public raised the funds to purchase them. The clock in the tower traveled all the way from Connecticut before making Statesboro its home. The bell itself is from Baltimore, Maryland. When the clock struck for the first time on February 25, 1897, the courthouse was finished, but it still had yet to acquire the distinctive look that Statesboro residents know and love today.
The building underwent a major renovation in 1914 under the direction of the architect Edward Columbus Hosford. (He was well known throughout Georgia and Florida for designing neo-classical style courthouses, and went on to design the Donehoo-Brannen house on Savannah avenue three years later). These renovations included internal expansions and a serious facelift to the look of the building. The courthouse acquired columns, additional brickwork, and white trim.
In 1954 the quantity of legal business conducted in the courthouse began to surpass its capacity. The following years saw several failed attempts by county commissioners and public referendums to raise and approve funds for renovating the courthouse. Some offices relocated to annex buildings in the general area. In the 1970s the courthouse took on a new look, courtesy of a coating of white plaster with asbestos.
In the 1990s the city began efforts to renovate and restore the century-old building. To minimize health risk to the workers and community, the asbestos-laced plaster coating was painted over with a red-brick color, closely resembling the color of its original brick. This brought the courthouse to its present appearance as a Statesboro landmark.
The story of how the courthouse came to occupy its prominent place in the Statesboro skyline is one of official action as well as community input.
For further reading see Parrish Blitch, “The True Story of the Bulloch County Courthouse” https://digitalcommons.georgiasouthern.edu/bchs-pubs/3
All of the Statesboro Main Street Farmers Market vendors have a story. Some are of decades old generational family farms. Some are of the desire to see healthier food options and increased environmental sustainability. And some are simply those who turned hobbies or crafts into steady sales. The 24/7 House, Inc. is no different. Here is their story.
The 24/7 House is a faith-based residential recovery facility that began in 2009. They operate in a renovated nursing home purchased from Appling County Healthcare Systems for $1.00, serving men and women who are in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. The staff conduct a multi-faceted and comprehensive program for recovery. Residents participate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for a minimum of one year to achieve a success rate that is over twice the industry average.
One part of that program is the greenhouse.
All residents at 24/7 House work in the greenhouse where they cultivate and harvest hydroponic local produce everyday. Currently, that includes living butterhead lettuce, camaro cucumbers, vine ripened beefsteak tomatoes (large and small), and green beefsteak tomatoes (perfect for frying!).
All proceeds from 24/7 Houses’ farmers market and Market2Go go to helping addicts in recovery.
Visit twentyfour7houseinc.com come for more information.
Go to statesboromarket2go.locallygrown.net to order from 24/7 House and dozens of other farmers market vendors.