Historic Augusta, Inc. announced today that the Richmond County Board of Education has demolished the historic Cauley-Wheeler Memorial Building on the Lucy C. Laney High School campus. The Cauley-Wheeler Memorial Building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2008 and the building was a significant piece of the school’s history.
Built in 1924, the Cauley-Wheeler building was once a part of the Haines Normal and Industrial School.
“The building is the last remaining structure from the Haines Normal and Industrial Institute, a school charted by Lucy Craft Laney in 1886 to educate black children,” according to the Lucy Craft Laney High School Alumni Association’s website. “Most of the school’s buildings were razed when it closed in 1949 to make way for Laney High, but the Cauley-Wheeler building remained, reminding all of the educator’s legacy and history.”
The following is the press release issued from Historic Augusta:
Ongoing demolition on the campus of the Lucy Craft Laney Comprehensive High School on Laney-Walker Boulevard has resulted in the loss of the Cauley-Wheeler Memorial Building, which was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2008. This is the first demolition of a building in Richmond County that had been individually designated on the prestigious list. Congress established the National Register in 1966 as a part of the National Historic Preservation Act.
The current expansion of Laney High by the Richmond County Board of Education did not incorporate the historic site into its plan, in spite of its historic designation. Erected in 1924 as a kindergarten, the building was the last permanent structure built under the management of Miss Lucy Craft Laney, leader of the Haines Normal and Industrial Institute. Miss Laney founded the school for the education of African Americans in 1883. She died in 1933. In 1949 the Haines Athletic Association leased the campus for 999 years to the Richmond County Board of Education. The Haines Alumni Association successively has represented the athletic association.
“The sad thing about the loss is that the Board of Education could have incorporated the historic building into its expansion plans if there had been the will to do so,” said Erick Montgomery, Executive Director of Historic Augusta, Inc. “It would have been an important centerpiece for the education of students at Laney, giving them a tangible connection to their school’s historical significance.” Historic Augusta included the Cauley-Wheeler Memorial Building on its Endangered Properties List in 2013 after it was learned that expansion plans for the Laney campus threatened its future existence. Because there were no Federal funds involved, the National Register listing was powerless to save the building from demolition, Montgomery explained.
The Board of Education has offered to erect a replica of the original building nearby for use by the Haines Alumni Association as a meeting facility. The replica, however, will not likely be eligible for listing in the National Register, as buildings generally must meet a 50-year minimum age requirement.