The Packinghouse Project II: A Brighter Chapter in a Dark Story
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/.