Price tag to revitalize historic Conway elementary increases to $30 million

Published: Jan. 18, 2023 at 8:45 PM EST
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CONWAY, S.C. (WMBF) - The determination to preserve its history is what city leaders in Conway have when it comes to the future of Whittemore Elementary School.

The City Administrator revealed to Conway City Council on Thursday the renovation costs for Whittemore Elementary School have nearly doubled.

Despite the increase, city leaders still want to pay tribute to the school’s history.

“We can’t go back in time, nor do we want to but it’s valuable for a new generation to get a sense of what a desk looked like then and what a memorial graph machine looked like,” said Conway Mayor Barbara Blain-Bellamy.

As time moves forward, many people who live in the city of Conway are on board when it comes to preserving the school’s history.

Especially Blain-Bellamy, who once sat at the desks at Whittemore Elementary School.

“I would say in every hallway, in every classroom, I would dare say in the principal’s office, in the auditorium where students got a chance to display their talents, it’s just a world in a time in my youth where a building and a group of people meant literally everything,” said Blain-Bellamy.

During the 1950′s, many young children were required to learn separately.

As a result of this doctrine, came Whittemore Elementary School, which was separate but equal.

Fast forward to 2017, the Horry County School District gifted the school building to the city of Conway, but the school remained empty for decades.

The school weathered many storms which resulted in large amounts of mold, pests and even a dilapidated roof.

Conway City Council members have previously discussed the possibility of both demolishing or renovating it.

During Thursday’s city council meeting, leaders learned the costs to save the entire building have grown.

“That number turned into $15 to $20 million and now as of last count our structural engineers are estimating it would take upwards of $30 million,” said Conway City Councilman, William Goldfinch. “To renovate the school and that’s just a number that the city of Conway just we just don’t have that kind of money.”

The Mayor said The Whittemore Racepath Historical Society will now hire its own engineers to compare costs and determine the next steps for the building.

Leaders said no matter the next steps, the legacy of those who learned there will live on.

“At the end of the day use that property and pay tribute and honor the memory of the folks that went to that school and again the impact that it had on our community which was a tremendous impact we want to honor and pay tribute to that,’ said Goldfinch.

“If the building were done away with there’s still that opportunity to establish a structure that pulls in people from all over this town that takes them where they are and pulls them up, catapults them up, that builds them another step further,” said Mayor.

In the next few weeks, City Council members will look at more assessments of this building and Mayor Blain-Bellamy said although this process has gone on for some time, it’s all worth the end result.