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Historic house in Rock Hill may be demolished if not moved

water tower
- Anna Douglas
City plans call for building a 750,000-gallon water tank on the home’s site at 302 W. Main St. An existing 500,000-gallon water tank in the area will be removed.

A historic home in Rock Hill could soon be demolished to make way for a new water tank that city officials say is needed to serve anticipated commercial development in and around the downtown area.

On Thursday, Rock Hill’s Board of Historic Review will decide whether to remove the historic designation of the house at the corner of West Main and Laurel streets, which would allow city officials to demolish the house or a new owner to move it.

The two-story house will be torn down in late February if Rock Hill can’t find a buyer.

City plans call for building a 750,000-gallon water tank on the home’s site at 302 W. Main St. An existing 500,000-gallon water tank in the area will be removed.

The placement and size of the new tank makes it impossible to keep the West Main Street house as is, said Kevin Bronson, general services administrator for the city.

Historic history

The home – called the Mills-Hallman House on city historic records – was built in the 1880s. Julius Friedheim owned it and used it as a boarding house for renters.

Records show that John Mills, owner of a grocery store once next door, lived in the house in 1925. T.M. Hallman, an employee at the Rock Hill Body Company, lived there in 1936.

In the late 1980s, Rock Hill paid for a city-wide historic resources inventory to document buildings and homes of potential historic value.

In parts of the city where a high concentration of historic buildings was found, officials created historic districts to support preservation efforts.

In other areas of the city – such as West Main Street – there were fewer historic homes so properties were given individual consideration.

In 1994, the City Council granted a historic designation for the Mills-Hallman house. It is one of about 400 historic homes in Rock Hill. Of the more than 2,000 homes considered but not necessarily designated as “historic” in Rock Hill, about 150 have been demolished.

The Mills-Hallman house is considered historic because of its age and architecture, not because of any historic events that happened there, said Janice Miller, Rock Hill’s historic preservation specialist.

State and national historic designation groups do not recognize the Mills-Hallman house as being a historic property.

City employees have worked to avoid an eventual demolition of the home, Miller said. It’s “an unusual situation,” she said, for city officials to need to move or tear down a historic house.

She and others hope to find an interested buyer who would pay for relocating the house, she said. The city doesn’t necessarily need to sell it, just find someone willing to pay moving costs before February.

Rock Hill bought the Mills-Hallman house for $65,000 about one month ago from the Volunteer Faith Center of Fort Mill. The church’s headquarters is in Fort Mill but it holds services on Cauthen Street in Rock Hill.

Pastor Phillip Cargile says his mother, Derris Cargile, founder of the church, bought the home fewer than 20 years ago. Over the years, the church has rented the home to tenants and sometimes allowed those with no other place to go to stay there. Cargile estimates the church has spent $25,000 on renovations recently.

When city officials approached the pastor with an offer to buy the house, Cargile said he weighed the pros and cons of selling or continuing repairs.

It will be sad to see the home demolished if no new buyer is found, Cargile said.

The Mills-Hallman house has significant water damage inside, Bronson, the city administrator, said.

Cheaper to move tower

Rock Hill officials first considered building the new 165-foot-tall water tank to the west of the existing tank on Laurel Street, Bronson said. But by building the tank to the east – on the site of the Mills-Hallman house – the city will save about $130,000 on construction costs because of the site’s natural elevation, he said.

The city is paying for the new tank construction with a loan from a state program that helps cities complete water and sewer infrastructure projects. Officials estimate the new tank will cost about $4 million.

Because Rock Hill is using state money to build the water tank, Bronson said, there are strict rules to follow in terms of when construction starts. To meet the criteria, Rock Hill’s City Council likely will approve borrowing the money in January and open the competitive bid process for water tank builders in February.

Bronson hopes the city will award a contract for the project by March. Construction is expected to begin in April and could take up to 18 months, he said.

Officials are undecided on the tank’s design but may decide to incorporate visual elements that fit into Rock Hill’s concept for Knowledge Park.

Plans for Knowledge Park call for redeveloping Rock Hill’s former textile area into a business park for high-tech companies. City and business leaders hope to see the area attract new construction, more employers and retail shops and restaurants to support development.

The old Rock Hill Printing and Finishing Co. site – commonly referred to as the Bleachery – is the centerpiece of Knowledge Park’s planned growth. The target redevelopment area stretches from Dave Lyle Boulevard to Winthrop University, along West White Street and connecting roads.

The new water tank on Laurel Street is a key aspect of improving utility infrastructure in the area, city officials say.

The Laurel Street tank is one of five around Rock Hill. Water tanks are important to maintaining pressure on water lines, Bronson said. And the tanks serve as storage for clean water from Rock Hill’s treatment plant to ensure water supply meets demand at peak times.

Miller says she’s heard no negative feedback from the Rock Hill community about the city’s plan to demolish the Mills-Hallman house if a buyer is not found.

The city is following the same process, she said, that a private historic property owner would follow if they were seeking demolition or historic designation removal.

Thursday’s Board of Historic Review meeting is open to the public for individuals to comment. The meeting is at 6 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall on Johnston Street.

Anna Douglas •  803-329-4068
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