Growing up, Perry Neely always loved traveling from Miami to spend summers visiting with his cousins at MayMay’s house in Hinesville.
“We were so little here,” Neely said, overlooking the property Friday afternoon. “The backyard seemed massive.”
The day is bittersweet as Neely watches an excavator demolish the remnants of the home that once belonged to his grandmother, Jordye McLamb Bacon, the first female Liberty County school superintendent.
Despite efforts by The Liberty County Cultural and Historic Resources Committee to preserve the house on Highway 84, it was torn down Friday to make way for a parking lot next to the new Parkwood Podiatry Associates building yards away from the original structure.
“It broke my heart,” Neely’s aunt, Claudia Bacon Smith, said upon hearing the house was demolished. “I was born in that house.”
The house was supposed to be sold for $1 to a local church, the Trinity Independent Fundamental Baptist Church, according to Dr. Brett Bodamer of Parkwood Podiatry.
“It just came down to time and finances,” Bodamer said. “We made every effort to try to preserve it, and in the end it just couldn’t be done.”
The Hinesville Downtown Development Authority also was one group that aimed to increase awareness for the property in hopes of retaining the home in the community, Executive Director Vicki Davis said.
“Seeing businesses enjoy such success that they have outgrown their current facilities is an encouragement, especially in an economic time where many communities experience large numbers of business closings,” she said.
“It goes without saying that losing this structure is losing a piece of our history that we will never be able to get back,” she added.
Too often, historic preservation is portrayed as an alternative to economic development, where communities must choose between preserving the past or moving forward to the future.
“This is absolutely a false choice,” she added. “Increasingly around the world, historic preservation is becoming a uniquely effective vehicle for economic growth.”
On Thursday, workers were out bracing the house to be hauled by truck to its new site, but Georgia Power refused to grant a moving permit unless the height of the building was significantly reduced, Bodamer said.
The decision to demolish it came at the last moment, out of the need to get the five-month Parkwood construction project back on schedule and because the church could not afford to comply with the height request, according to site developer Pat Davis, president of Davis Custom Homes.
Parkwood’s new facility adjacent to the former home will open Monday, Bodamer said.
“They said that 4 feet of the roof had to be cut off for it to move,” Neely said. “You don’t have to say anymore — anyone knows that’s an expense.”
Neely noticed the demolition while returning home from Midway on Friday afternoon and stopped to find out what was going on, he said.
He noticed that some people were there trying to scavenge wiring and copper, and he asked the demolition worker if he could take some pieces — some siding from the home and a secret door his grandfather installed — as reminders of the home where he and his cousins played Wiffle ball in the yard, picked wild blueberries and skated on the slick floor in their
“When I look at the house, I don’t see it as a foot doctor,” Neely said as he pointed to the last corner of house amid the rubble. “I remember that as a laundry room … and that was the den.”
Bacon and her husband, Harley Bacon, who also served as superintendent, had the house built in 1932, and Bacon’s four grown daughters were forced to sell it after her death in 1981, Smith said.
“I never have thought about it being torn down. I just thought it would be there and be Dr. Bodamer’s office,” she added. “I’ve had to accept it all because I had to agree to sell it.”
Harley Bacon served as superintendent from 1925-45, and his wife assumed the role when her husband passed away, Smith said. She would serve 24 years, and Jordye Bacon Elementary School was named in her honor.
Ask Bacon’s family members about the house, and they offer a flood of memories. But ask about their matriarch, and they beam with pride, recounting her warmth and involvement with the community.
“It will take a while to get used to not seeing it there as we pass by,” Neely said. “But everyone who knew Jordye Bacon knows that her memory is instilled all over this community and will always be.”