The nonprofit worked for months to move the 1935 relic of the Buffington community to another site and out of harm’s way from Flash Foods’ plans, but the agency said this week the costs and logistics of a move proved too much to overcome.
Estimates for the move were in the tens of thousands, a considerable chunk of the agency’s annual budget.
Now, the building is slated to be torn down at the beginning of July, after the present tenant, Cherokee Market, moves out of the one-time general store, said Jim Rollins, the Flash Foods company’s broker for purchasing the store on Highway 20.
The Cherokee Board of Commissioners also unsuccessfully stood against the company’s plans to tear down Bell’s Store by twice instituting temporary bans on demolishing certain historic structures in the county.
Cherokee Historical Society Executive Director Stefanie Joyner said with the hopes of saving Bell’s Store dashed, the agency would like to take the building’s bricks and sell them to donors as a way to come up with money to save other endangered landmarks in the future.
“Our president, Jeff Brown, came up with the idea as a way to honor the legacy of Bell’s Store, and create some start-up money if we are faced with a similar scenario in the future,” Joyner said.
Rollins said Thursday Flash Foods plans to accommodate the historical society’s request and will stack up the bricks on pallets so they can be hauled away.
He added the company will be giving a few pieces of the building as mementos to Lisa Meyer, owner of Cherokee Market, which had been renting the building from the previous owner and has been given until June 30 to vacate the property.
Meyer is planning to move to the former W.A. Lathem and Sons General Merchandise building, a more than a century-old relic in the Lathemtown community. The Board of Commissioners OK’d her request to rezone the building Tuesday night.
After hearing the news the historical society had lost the fight to save Bell’s Store, Meyer said the situation is “sad for all of us.”
The bricks from Bell’s Store are planned to be engraved with the name of the person who purchases them and placed at a new courtyard at the historical society’s Rock Barn in Canton.
Such fundraising efforts may be important, the historical society feels, because the fate of Bell’s Store might not turn out to be all that unique in the coming years, as more development comes to the county.
“We’re not against development and progress,” Joyner said. “We would just like to see some of Cherokee County’s historic buildings incorporated into new construction ... Including a little bit of history with new developments will only enhance our communities while retaining some of the character that differentiates Cherokee County from other Atlanta suburbs.”
She pointed to the Silos in Alpharetta as an example of saving some of the relics of a different era in the face of massive development.
Rollins has said Flash Foods was willing to consider building its gas station around Bell’s Store, but decided it wouldn’t work, because part of the building sits in the Georgia Department of Transportation’s right of way on Highway 20. He reiterated that Thursday.
“They keep missing the point that the building sticks out into the DOT existing right of way,” he said, adding that fact would bring Bell’s Store’s fate into question at some point anyway, as the state moves forward on its plans to likely widen Highway 20 from Canton to Cumming.
But Rollins did concede: “I understand why everybody wanted to try to save it.”
Before Bell’s Store is no more, the historical society plans to photograph and document the landmark, which has been revered as one of the most significant in the county. Fortunately, the history of Bell’s Store has also been recorded by the Bell family in the book, “Buffington and Macedonia in Days Gone By,” the historical society said.