Society Hill Depot renovation nears completion
By Samantha Lyles, Staff Writer, email@example.com
The final touches are being applied to a historical restoration project some sixteen years in the making, and the town of Society Hill will soon have a tourism and information hub located in one of the communities most treasured buildings: the old train depot.
Constructed shortly after the Civil War, the Society Hill depot has a unique, flat-roofed architectural design often used by the independent line Cheraw & Darlington Railroad. Chartered in 1849, the C & D Railroad began service in 1855 and ran 40 miles between Cheraw and present-day Florence.
Union troops burned the original building, which was built on West Depot Street, in March of 1865. Another structure made on the same building plans replaced the destroyed depot a year later. The Cheraw & Darlington Railroad sold out to Atlantic Coast Line RR in 1898, and the depot continued to serve as a freight and passenger relay right on through the 1940s, then solely ran freight until 1973. The Town of Society Hill now owns the depot, and the building was moved to its current North Main Street location in 2002.
Preserving and revitalizing this historic building has been a passion project for Society Hill Mayor Tommy Bradshaw, and he found an equally dedicated partner in Bill Segars, owner of historic preservation specialist Segars Construction.
Though workmen are still adding a little paint to the handsome exterior, the inside of the building is essentially complete. The 36-by-50 back room will remain in its rough-hewn present state, with exposed wood beams and weathered walls providing authentic atmosphere for a planned museum.
“What you see now is exactly the way it’s going to look,” says Segars. “For all practical purposes, it is finished.”
Bradshaw says the museum will hold artifacts and memorabilia relating the story of the train depot and the Town of Society Hill.
“We’ll have exhibits telling the history of the town, from the very beginning and right on through,” says Bradshaw. “Hopefully this will start off as a meeting place and people will come here and go on to see the rest of the town and all the historic homes.”
The front meeting room will be available for public use by reservation. Tall sunlit windows and glossy floors contrast with original wooden walls, many of which still bear legible writing from a hundred years ago. The entry room – originally a passenger waiting area – will offer brochures and information about Society Hill, the Cotton Trail, and Darlington County of interest to locals and tourists alike.
“We’ve needed a place like this for a long time. A lot of people come to see Society Hill, but there has been no central place you could go to get started,” Bradshaw says.
Having worked on the depot restoration project since 1999, Bradshaw says the finished product is faithful to his imagined result. Delayed several times due to funding lulls, the depot project was mainly financed by a $200,000 grant from SCDOT and a $50,000 match from the town, with many donations from citizens and local businesses shoring up gaps along the way.
“It has been a groups effort on the part of a lot of people,” says Segars, citing support from Town Council and many generous residents.
Duke Energy kicked in another $2,000 to the renovation effort last week, and several Society Hill Depot Committee members joined Bradshaw and Segars to welcome the donation.
“Historical preservation is such an important part of the fabric of a community, and we appreciate the opportunity to partner with Society Hill and be a part of it,” says Mindy Taylor of Duke Energy.