A couple of weeks ago Mary Ellen Lives from the Laurens County Museum contacted me about several old houses in Laurens that were scheduled for demolition. This list also included the Old Laurens Hospital, and Mary Ellen wanted to know if I was interested in photographing any of these before they were torn down. Of course, I said yes. We set up a time and made a plan for our visit.
In the meantime, I think I had finally sorted out my GPS POI problem. I was finally able to upload my list of possible schools as waypoints. Since we were meeting at the Museum at 2:00, I could head out earlier and see if, in fact, my points were working.
After a big breakfast at Stax, I said goodbye to Laura and headed down towards Laurens County. Normally I would take the Highway 14 exit, but this time I continued down I-385 to Metric Road and turned toward the town of Ora. There are several old houses just on the other side of the railroad tracks from Highway 221. As a child I remember rambling through the old Blakely House with my family one Sunday afternoon. I drove past this one and a couple of others, and spotted an interesting set of brick ruins next to the railroad track. These look like the remains of an old business.
On the other side of Highway 221 from these ruins I found a great example of an old school. The weird thing is that this school doesn’t show up on my GNIS data, so it wasn’t in my GPS. It was, however, listed as the Ora Community House on the School Insurance Photos archives.
Even though the building was intact, it still needed lots of TLC. Some of the framework was coming loose from around the door, and the roof had major problems.
I decided to test my GPS waypoints. The next closest school was Oak Grove School, so I set off in that direction. The school was off of Highway 308 on Pool Town Road. I spotted a building that looked very much like an old school at the appointed coordinates. This one was overgrown, though, and hard to see from the road.
While this certainly looks like an old school, there’s just one problem…it doesn’t look anything like Oak Grove School as shown in the School Insurance collection.
I was able to find another image of the school in “A Sketchbook of Laurens County“. It doesn’t show the school clearly, but it does show a class of students in front of the school.
I had one more school close by. I had Montgomery School marked on the GPS, so I headed that way to check it out. Sadly, there was nothing there that I could see. it was getting close to the appointed time, so I took a meandering route through my old family stomping grounds of Wattsville, then headed to the Laurens Museum.
Fellow photographer Sean Green arrived about the same time. Inside the museum we met Julius Bolt and Margaret McIntyre. Mary Ellen joined us shortly. We left Julius to mind the store, and we set off.
Harper Street House
First up was a house at the corner of Harper and Lee Streets. We saw no mockingbirds, neither dead nor alive. The house had been scheduled for demolition, but a buyer had been found, and the house would be reconditioned.
We had access to the porch, but all doors were locked.
There were accessible windows, though. Using the GoPro with the extension pole I was able to get some interior shots. These showed beautiful architectural details such as mantel pieces and beveled windows. It also showed something of a mess. Renovation isn’t pretty.
From the Harper Lee house we took a side trip out to Davis Springs. Back in the 1950s and 1960s this was an integrated party place with a swimming pool and mineral springs. A narrow road led down to the springs. Margaret wasn’t sure her SUV would make it, so we didn’t explore. Sean went back later and got some photos.
Old Laurens Hospital
I have to admit…when Mary Ellen said that the old hospital was going to be torn down, I thought she meant the hospital on Farley Avenue, the hospital where I was born. That hospital had been serving as an assisted living facility. Turns out it still is, and isn’t the one being torn down.
The hospital Mary Ellen meant was built in the early 1900s and served as the town’s first hospital until 1914. Here’s a photo from circa 1911 in a postcard image from the Laurens County Postcard History Series.
The house was divided into apartments, and external staircases and entrances were added.
In this case we did have access to the interior. It was a mess. There were some nice mantel pieces, but everything else was in shambles. The interior stairs were completely gone, and there was no access to the upstairs. I don’t think I would have wanted to go up there, anyway, given the structural integrity (or lack thereof) of the first floor flooring.
According to the Post Cards book there were no elevators, so patients were carried by hand up the now non-existent stairs. Speaking of structural integrity, there was a sign on the back door condemning the building.
A neighbor eyed us suspiciously. Turns out that she and Margaret were good friends, so all was OK. She said that over the years that had been lots of strange comings and goings among tenants of the old place, so she tried to keep an eye on things. She also said that on a column somewhere under the porch was a plaque dedicating the building to “the health and well-being of the people of Laurens County.”
We drove around the block to view some historical cabins that the neighbor now manages as rentals, then proceeded on our way.
In our e-mail exchanges last week Mary Ellen had mentioned that she had found an old armory of which she had been unaware. As soon as she mentioned it I knew where she meant. After all, my senior prom was held at this location. I didn’t attend, but it was held there.
We drove on over and took a few photos from the road.
We wrapped up there quickly and moved on to our last stop of the day.
The Wardlaw House is on East Main Street, and is another building scheduled for demolition. In fact, according to the next door neighbors, it was to be torn down the next day.
The house was obscured by overgrown vegetation. One of the first things I noticed was the haint blue color on the porch ceiling. The porch columns had deteriorated to the point that the porch roof was supported by a couple of beams wedged onto the steps.
We wandered around the yard outside while Margaret chatted with the neighbors. At the back we could see where a large tree had fallen onto the house, caving in the roof over the kitchen. This was the main reason that the house had been deemed beyond hope and was scheduled for demolition.
The yard went back quite a ways. There were pens of some type out in the back yard. A rusty lawnmower caught our attention.
Inside we found a very sad collection of belongings. There were clothes and boxes of stuff. The home had been abandoned for some time, and the last owner, Mrs. Wardlaw, had passed away in assisted living. Medicare actually owned the house at this point. The dark wooden paneling and other features just added to the melancholy of the place.
Sadly, kudzu was making it’s in roads. I spent lots of time lining up this last shot, trying to get the exposure perfect.
We headed on back to the museum and parted ways. As always, I appreciate the opportunity to venture out with the folks from Laurens Museum.