To The Editor:
After reading the article in The Dillon Herald concerning the Dillon Historic School Foundation (this is the correct name of our organization, not the name as mentioned in the article), I feel that logically, some clarification of values needs to be discussed as there seems to be a big difference between the values of the DHSF and both the Dillon County Board of Education and Dillon School District Four. A knowledgeable public board should at least respect the values of the citizens and groups that they represent in a rational and ethical manner, even though the values may not represent those of the board, but are nonetheless creditable, legal, and valuable to many whom the boards were appointed to serve.
Let’s first look at the values of our local school boards – it seems that their values are to build newer facilities with an emphasis on having top of the line facilities for sports. According to the most recent article, the costs involved in this seem to indicate that money is not a factor when these types of facilities are involved. But are we considering how these loans, etc. are to be paid back in the future? Is there a financial burden to be placed on future generations?
Next, it seems that these boards do not value older buildings that many consider to be architectural and historic treasures such as the auditorium and other buildings in the J.V. Martin complex. They do not seem to understand or value the concept of preventative maintenance and upkeep on the older buildings. How can any reliable board or authority not assume their responsibility to maintain board properties so that these properties (that are owned by taxpayers) do not fall into such a state of disrepair that they are described as condemned? How can any reliable board allow this to happen when they are responsible for their upkeep?
The boards do not seem to value and respect the interest shown by some citizens in the county and elsewhere who want to stress the importance and the value of programs involving the arts. They do not value the fact that some citizens feel that, along with sports, interest in promoting performing arts, visual arts, and musical arts should be of equal value and should be treated as such. They don’t seem to value preservation and renovation of historic structures that are owned by the local boards and are their responsibility. One might ask how can you even compare costs for renovation of properties of historic value that DHSF wants to save from destruction with millions being spent on building new structures. In comparison, renovation, in many instances, is “chicken feed” compared to the millions spent on building new facilities.
Wanting the board to spend millions on the restoration of the auditorium was stated in the article as a deplorable sin. This statement was extremely inappropriate. What right do a board member and a superintendent who are in charge of public properties have to label citizens who dare to differ from some of their actions? DHSF has not asked the board for ANY funds.
The following is a list of some schools in South Carolina that have converted facilities that they control (including auditoriums) into functioning facilities while preserving and renovating. These people seem to have clarified their values and can respect and appreciate preservation and restoration, and understand how restoration can lead to the functional use of historic structures.
List of Facilities: Fountain Inn High School – Yonts Center for Performing Arts, Walhalla Graded School – Walhalla Civic Auditorium, Manning High School – Weldon Auditorium, Woodruff High School – now Town Hall – includes auditorium, and about a dozen more.
There are many grants that can help provide funding for restoration. There are businesses and industries that can donate funds for restoration. There are former, students, faculty members and others that are prospective donors.
For the J.V. Martin complex to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places is an honor that should be appreciated, not opposed. Opposition to the listing reflects on this community’s values…or lack thereof. Critical comments against members of the DHSF such as living in “a fantasy world”, “a world of illusion” show proof of the fact that the board does not value feelings, interest, and concerns of citizens with values that differ from theirs.
DHSF members should not be misquoted in newspaper articles. The DHSF does indeed have a vision for the future where we might have an open house in the auditorium for the public ONCE THE FACILITY IS RESTORED. We never intended to have an open house for the public without completing the restoration. Additionally, the auditorium would never be in competition with the Dillon Theater or the Ellis Auditorium. Each of these venues are unique in their own way, and one would hope that those in charge of these facilities would be able to coordinate events of different types and sizes for the appropriate facility, and work with each other in so doing.
Here are some examples of the many state and national departments which support historic preservation: SC Department of Archives and History, National Trust for Historic Preservation, State Historic Preservation Office, Historic Preservation in the US, Advisory Council, National Historic Preservation…and many more.
This list proves that the powers that exist in national, state, and in some local governments do indeed recognize and value the fact that preservation and renovation are important enough for governmental departments be made available to help responsible citizens understand and protect historic interests all over the country. Dillon County’s boards might do well to become more knowledgeable about rules, regulations, and aid that is available to us from outside our county.
The Dillon Herald article stated that until recently, all students in District Four were attending schools in deplorable condition. Some might wonder how the parents of the students feel about how their children were allowed to attend schools in deplorable condition. What kind of management would allow this? Boards are responsible for maintaining facilities that are safe, clean, and NOT deplorable. The article also mentions that Dillon is a poverty area. There is, at this time, vast amounts of construction in process in Dillon District Four – from this, believing that poverty prevails in the school system is hard to do.
Go to the internet and read the SC Code of Laws/Education. You will see several opportunities for boards to make use of abandoned facilities such as the J.V. Martin Auditorium other than just letting it sit and become a dilapidated building so that it can be torn down. DHSF would like to see the auditorium preserved and not demolished. This is feasible, possible, and sensible. Restoration is probably more cost effective than demolishing. Since the auditorium was built by the WPA, no federal funds can be used to demolish it – only school funds.
We truly hope that our school boards will begin to think outside the box and begin to appreciate values that some citizens believe they have the right to express and appreciate, such as the citizens of Whiteville, NC who restored their school auditorium (which is much like J.V. Martin) and now use it for concerts, conventions, recitals, revivals, reunions, etc. with people attending these events from all over the country. We need a balance in our government with due respect being shown to all citizens who are working toward the betterment of our county.
To all: please consider thinking about our county’s history; read about preservation and restoration, and show equal consideration to all people involved in causes that they believe are for the betterment of our community – whether you necessarily agree or not.
Right now, it appears that there is a total lack of appreciation by our boards towards the efforts and concerns of those who appreciate the importance of preservation and renovation. There seems to be no appreciation of our cultural heritage or of the value of the historical facilities and events that have led us to where we are today. There are boards and people all over the state that actually DO appreciate and DO promote preservation and the arts, and have embraced rather than ignored their historic facilities. Our county’s historic buildings should be treated with the same respect as our country treats theirs. What if, say, our capitol building got the same respect as our auditorium? What would happen then?
How can we continue to abide in a school district with such complacency and let such a lack of interest in the public’s input continue? DSHF members have hope! God gives us the gift of encouragement, which guides us and urges us NOT to give up in despair. Encouragement is the link that can mediate the differences between persons of very different opinions. Encouraged by our vision for the J.V. Martin Auditorium, we hope to help in making Dillon County a better and brighter place in which to live.
Betty Lou McIntyre Barclay
329 Lee Circle
Dillon, South Carolina 29536
To The Editor: