Newberry Hall, Mead Hall among preservation award winners
Maggie and David Sacks' Newberry Hall venture received the Small Business of the Year Award for 2013 at the 96th Annual Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce Dinner on Friday night.
On Sunday, the Sackses were back in the spotlight again. They were among honorees during the Historic Aiken Foundation's 2014 Preservation Awards ceremony at the Aiken County Historical Museum. The couple and Myrtle Anderson won the Leadership Award for Newberry Hall. Anderson is the owner of the property where the Sackses' event-hosting and catering company is based.
“Mrs. Anderson provided us the space for this project, but it took the majority of our retirement funds to do the improvements,” David Sacks said. “About halfway through this project in 2008, the economy started tanking. Maggie and I wondered what we had gotten ourselves into. But thank goodness the community supported us.”
The Leadership Award recognizes outstanding infill design for new construction that is compatible with existing historic structures in the immediate area. Robert Stacks, who is the foundation's vice president, described Newberry Hall as “a wonderful joint venture that fits in very well with downtown.”
When the Sackses first approached Anderson with their Newberry Hall proposal, she wasn't very enthusiastic.
“I had been widowed, and I had a lot going on,” she said. “I thought it was a big project and that if they wanted to expand their business, they needed to go somewhere else. But as time passed, things began to fall into place and I began to think, 'Maybe I can do that.' When all was said and done, it was a great journey.”
Mead Hall Episcopal School won the President's Award for its preservation of the Aiken Preparatory School campus. The honor recognizes the outstanding rehabilitation of a historic building that is destined for demolition.
Mead Hall and Aiken Prep officials announced in the summer of 2012 that the two schools would merge would merge and Aiken Prep would cease to exist.
“There are so many, many, many people in the community that helped make it happen,” said Kitty Gordon, Mead Hall's head of school, of the merger. “There were forces of nature and acts of God that ended up making it come to pass.”
An important factor, she added, was former Aiken Prep Headmaster Robert Harrington's approval of the unification.
“When the boards of the two schools began having conversations, I would have to say that preservation of the campus was not our top priority,” Gordon admitted. “Preserving education and employment as part of the Aiken Prep campus was the higher goal. We also wanted to make sure we could preserve the wonderful traditions that the students at Aiken Prep had known for nearly 100 years.”
Since then, however, maintaining the Aiken Prep campus and upgrading its facilities have become priorities.
“Fortunately, we were able to receive a challenge grant from the Williams Family Foundation of Georgia; they have offered us $400,000 to do capital improvements,” Gordon said. “The first $100,000 we have received from the foundation has been used to completely renovate the Upper School's science lab. It's a facility that we are so proud of. We still have a long list of preservation and renovation projects that need to be done, so we are hoping that the community and our alumni will join with us and allow us to acquire the funds to make those things happen.”
The other winners of the foundation's 2014 preservation honors included Jacqueline Ohrstrom, who received the Stewardship Award for Toad Hall and Stables, and Jack Wetzel, who received the Claudia Phelps Award for The Gardens. Sarah and Jim Wildasin received the Wilds-Lipe Treasured Home Award for Rye Fields, and Phyllis and Bobby Coker earned the same award for Coker Cottage.
The foundation is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.
Dede Biles is a general assignment reporter for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since January 2013. A native of Concord, N.C., she graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.