Preservation efforts recognized by  foundation

Beatrice and Bill McGee were awarded the President's Award by the Historic Aiken Foundation.

Local historic preservation was celebrated Sunday during the Historic Aiken Foundation's annual meeting. During the meeting, which was held at Cumberland AME Church, the HAF presented its 2009 preservation awards. Del Hickey, the outgoing president of the HAF, said the group puts a great deal and work and effort into selecting preservation award recipients each year. When selecting award winners, board members drive around town and scope out all of the new restoration projects that have taken place throughout the year, then come together as a group to choose winners. After the winners are selected, they work with HAF members to create story boards which detail their individual renovation processes with pictures. The story boards were on display during Sunday's meeting. "This is really quite a bit of work, but it wouldn't have happened without dedication," said Hickey. The first awards presented were the Historic Aiken President's award, which is given to someone who has restored a historic building destined for demolition, according to Hickey. Two couples that received the 2009 President's award were Julie and Jeff Londo and Beatrice and Bill McGee. The Londos were honored for their work restoring a cottage-style home at 330 Union Street, and the McGees were honored for a property on 208 Barnwell Avenue. "For us, this is more than a house, but a beacon of hope for the neighborhood," said Julie Londo, after accepting the award. When renovating the once dilapidated home, the couple was able to save the original interior and exterior walls, floors and the fireplace. The cottage was recently sold to an owner that was excited about its restoration, Londo said. "Reviving, restoring and bringing owners that love history back to the neighborhood, that's what it's all about," she said. Beatrice McGee called the Barnwell Avenue home, "a lovely, lovely house." "I'm just pleased it did not meet the wrecker's ball," she said. Elliot Levy, director of the Aiken County Historical Museum, was given the stewardship award for his contribution in the upkeep of Banksia. When accepting the award, Levy, who began as director of the museum in September 2006, credited "an amazing building, wonderful volunteers and wonderful support from the community" for his work. After the awards were presented, Ellen Rickman, director of museum and guest services for the Biltmore Estate in Ashville, N.C., gave a presentation on the history of the estate. She talked about a current project taking place at the Biltmore house to restore four guest bedrooms - the Louis XV Suite - back to their original state. The rooms will be open to the public in April. Other award winners: - Historic Aiken Preservation Award: Southern Bank and Trust (Laurens Street branch) - Historic Aiken Adaptive Use Award: Marion Minkwintz, owner of the Sugar Magnolia Cafe - Historic Aiken Leadership Award: Susan and Bill Reynolds - The Wilds-Lipe Treasured Home Award: Paula and David Basher and Linda Clarke