Commission pushes to repurpose college
Saturday, March 01, 2014 12:00 AM
Cokesbury College, which was built in 1854, is shown. Members of the Cokesbury Historical and Recreation Commission are trying to breathe new life into the historic facility. (Maddy Jones | Index-Journal)
No longer are its rooms filled with students learning the arts, music and languages. Aside from the periodic meetings, weddings and receptions that take place within its walls and on its grounds nowadays, historic Cokesbury College has fallen silent and is in need of a new purpose.
The Cokesbury community itself was once a thriving village on the north end of Greenwood County in Hodges. Much like many American towns that were once bustling centers of life and commerce whose lifeblood was severed by a ribbon of interstate, Cokesbury has withered through the years.
Members of the Cokesbury Historical and Recreation Commission hope new life can be breathed into the 160-year-old historic building and its surrounding properties. A handful of wedding receptions, garden parties and such simply are not enough to sustain the property. In short, the college building is at risk of falling into disrepair and dying without a means of a sustaining income to cover operating and maintenance costs.
At the Commission's invitation, a number of area residents — from people in business and government leadership positions to those who share a love of history and historic sites — gathered at the college Feb. 20 as a sort of brain trust. As invited guests familiarized or refamiliarized themselves with the college building, they were asked to share their vision for it and the property's future by writing suggestions on a large piece of paper tacked on the wall in a downstairs room.
Could Cokesbury College be revived as a school, converted into a retirement home? A bed and breakfast? Is the soil around Cokesbury rich enough that a winery could crop up and the college become a facility where wines are tasted and sold? Is it at all possible the entire community could undergo a renaissance where condominiums are built and the college and its grounds become a community center?
The possibilities, perhaps, are endless. The question is whether there exists not only the desire to breathe new life into Cokesbury College and the surrounding properties, but also the resources — financial and otherwise.
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