South Charlotte

What are those stickers on buildings in downtown Fort Mill? Scan and tap to find out.

Roots and Recall volunteer Greg Tennant gives a demonstration last week of This Building Has History, a newly launched interactive web program for touring Fort Mill's historic district.
Roots and Recall volunteer Greg Tennant gives a demonstration last week of This Building Has History, a newly launched interactive web program for touring Fort Mill's historic district.

Wondering about those new stickers on old buildings downtown?

They are part of a new interactive project by the Fort Mill History Museum. Not everyone wants to visit a museum to view archives through a layer of glass. With that in mind, rather than bringing the people to the history, the Fort Mill History Museum has partnered with Roots and Recall to bring the history to the people.

The museum recently celebrated the launch of This Building Has History, Roots and Recall’s interactive web program that renders historical images and information about specific addresses through the use of a smart device.

Working in collaboration with the museum’s Historic Fort Mill Walking Tour, TBHH includes 44 sites along Academy, Main, Tom Hall and Clebourne streets. A TBHH sticker can be found at each location. Using a smart device, people can either scan the QR code or visit the URL address on the sticker to quickly peek into the past.

“It’s been a great marriage of technology and history,” Roots and Recall co-founder Wade Fairey said. “Roots and Recall and TBHH is all about specific addresses, not just local history. They tie history to a specific address and location. All of these buildings have a life, they have a story to tell.”

The program’s launch took place at one of the tour’s most popular spots, the site of the old Center Theatre on Main Street – now home to Southern Sugar, a boutique bakery, espresso and wine bar.

Fort Mill History Museum Executive Director LeAnne Burnett Morse said one of the first patrons to arrive to the celebration could still remember buying admission to movies at the theater’s ticket window.

“We have stories from people who are still living today who talk about coming here on a Saturday to the Center Theatre and watching the all-day westerns,” she said. “People who once came here to see movies can come here now and enjoy a different use of the building.”

Although the Fort Mill History Museum has offered a walking tour for two years, the tour wasn’t as extensive. Morse said some of the sites were combined due to a lack of information. But thanks to a lot of research and digging through old photographs, the new program provides a wealth of knowledge about each location – even the ones that no longer exist such as the Old Train Depot that used to stand at the corner of Academy and Railroad streets.

“It’s neat to figure out what this building was before or what used to be there,” Morse said. “This is opening up history to a lot of people who would not really engage in it otherwise.”

One of the guests at last week's rollout party was Rudy Sanders, a native of Fort Mill who remembers when the building he was standing in was still operating as the Center Theater.  He also recalled the days of Jim Crow and segregation when Sanders, who is African-American, was forced to enter the theater from a side entrance and take his seat in the balcony — the only place in the theater where people of color were allowed.  

“It just occurred to me as I came in here that tonight is the first time I’ve ever walked through the front doors of this building,”  he said.

Once inside, Sanders could see the spot where the enclosed stairs once carried him to the restricted area.  But Sanders doesn’t look back with anger; He tells the story of the building to show how far we’ve come. Just one example of the way a building’s history can be used to inform society even decades later.

One demographic TBHH appeals to is younger people. Fairey said thousands of people visit Roots and Recall’s website every year, but two-thirds of those visitors are ages 34 and younger.

“It’s not that youth do not like history, they just want it on their iPhone,” he said.

With this revamped mode of delivery, Morse hopes to preserve Fort Mill’s history at the same pace that its population grows. It was recently reported that Fort Mill is the nation’s fastest growing city with at least 15,000 people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“So you have all these people who are coming here and they don’t necessarily know what was here before,” Morse said. “This is an opportunity to bring history to people in a way that they can access easily. As people move here we don’t want to lose the essence of Fort Mill – and its history is its essence.”

For more information, visit tbhh.info/fortmill.

Stephanie Jadrnicek: stephaniej123@gmail.com

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