By Gerald Berry,
Vice-Chairman of DHSF
P. O. Box 173
Dillon, S.C. 29536
REHAB Builders, Inc. of Winston-Salem, North Carolina is at work on the former campus of Dillon High School.
Since 2019, DHSF has been in negotiations with both Cadence Development and Tapestry Development and have worked together to reach an agreement that would insure the restoration and renovation of the entire two-block area bounded by 3rd Avenue, Cleveland Street, and Washington Street. Leases to restore and to renovate all buildings on the original DHS campus were signed by both parties on April 5, 2023. Throughout five years of negotiations to revise seven versions of lease and restoration agreements, Attorneys Ben Zeigler and Boone Aiken (Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd, P.A of Florence, S. C.) successfully represented DHSF and secured all DHSF demands for the complete renovation of the historic DHS 1936 Auditorium. Ever since its inception in 2010, DHSF has received sound professional legal advice from two Dillon County attorneys, Mr. A. LaFon LeGette, Jr. and Mr. Alan L. Berry, whose combined expertise, cooperation, and exceptional willingness to support this effort to preserve a historic Dillon County landmark, has benefitted not only DHSF but also our county. With this combined dedicated effort by DHSF and these four exemplary attorneys, the initial phase to restore and renovate the entire property has actually started and will continue over the next eighteen months.
Evident to passers-by, several large green containers marked “Danger” have been positioned at various entrances to the buildings, and their presence has raised the curiosity of Dillon’s citizens. When asked for an explanation for these containers being placed on the grounds, Jon Toppen of Tapestry Development informed DHSF that the REHAB crew is “doing the lead and asbestos remediation first, and that is underway. The superintendent they will have on the job is finishing up another job in another city, so he will be on-site soon, and that’s when a little more work will be going on. The remediation has to happen first before just about anything else can happen.”Based on what DHSF has recently learned from Mr. Toppen, the principal contractors John Lipsky [Project Superintendent] and Wes Bellamy [Site Manager] will become actively involved when they arrive between now and September, bringing restoration and renovation crews to begin the noticeably visiblel construction work that will advance this momentous project to its long-awaited completion. According to the binding Lease and Restoration Agreements, this entire project must be satisfactorily completed by December 31, 2024.
Confirmed by the designs drawn by James Maynard, main architect of RedClay Designs, it is clearly evident that this project—conceived, initiated and shaped by DHSF—will be a remarkable asset to the City of Dillon and to Dillon County. The completed project will provide multiple apartments that will occupy the 1896 Dillon Graded School (“the old graded school”), the 1951 wing behind the gym along Washington Street (containing classrooms, the cafeteria and the band room), and the new classroom building that replaced the three-story original unfortunately lost in a fire more than forty years ago. As of now, the approved plans also provide for a police sub-station and a medical clinic. In time, other amenities may be added.
The 1936 Auditorium will be completely restored (including previously non-existent restroom facilities) and installed with modern theatre production light and sound equipment, fully afforded DHSF by generous donations from two former DHS graduates: one from an anonymous donor and the other from Frank X. Hursey, Ph.D., a renowned 1962 graduate whose life-saving invention “QuikClot” became the subject of the book In The Blood written by Charles Barber.
The 1936 Gymnasium will retain the original bleachers, maple wood flooring, and the caged lights and steel girders high above it all. The gym that all DHS students remember—P.E. classes, basketball games, and “sock dances”—will bring back those memories! Gymnasium classrooms will become apartments, and the other spaces will be converted and repurposed for personal services provided for the apartment residents and potentially for the general public.
When you are in Dillon, take a short detour two blocks north of Main Street and see this work-in-progress, and then think about becoming actively involved in a historic movement that will enhance the regional appeal and attractiveness of our hometown, Dillon.
“Reclaim the Past. Proclaim the Future!”
By Gerald Berry,