Porterdale Mill on the Yellow River
NAMED for: Oliver S. Porter, Mill Owner

 

 

Workers unearth Porterdale School foundation


By JOEY PETERS
joey.peters@newtoncitizen.com

The remains of the old Porterdale school were uncovered by workers recently as they were attempting to build a basketball court at B.C. Crowell Park. –Photo by Colin Owens

PORTERDALE — Construction crews working at B.C. Crowell Park unearthed a little piece of Newton County history this week when the brick foundation of Porterdale’s old school house was found after being buried for decades.
“We received a $5,000 grant from the state to be used for the construction of a new basketball court at the park,” B.C. Crowell said. “When they got out there and started digging, they came across parts of the old building.”

Crowell, who began his storied career in the late 1940s as the school’s physical education teacher, could not hide his excitement in an interview Tuesday when talking about the discovery. “The brickwork that they found is unlike anything I have seen done in decades. ... The pattern on the brick and the way it was set, you just don’t see that kind of work anymore.”

Constructed by Macon-based Bibb Manufacturing, which purchased the mill and all of the town’s buildings in 1898,the school was actually one of two all brick school houses that was constructed by the company for its employees’ children in 1900.

The second building, which sat where the town’s current post office and city hall stand, was constructed in 1917 and named the John Porter Building after the son of town founder Oliver Porter. The leftover bricks were used for the construction of an indoor pool facility and also housed an expansive auditorium that was funded by the Covington’s women’s club, which still operates in Covington today on College Avenue.

Rarely seen today in modern business, Bibb essentially designed the entire town from the ground up and was integral in the construction of the community’s homes, schools and commercial buildings. Serving as the town’s only educational facility for close to 60 years, the buildings were unceremoniously demolished in the late 1960s by the city because of age and needed cost cutting measures.

According to Porterdale historian and city councilwoman Rebecca Rosebury, the destruction of the buildings was one of the worst mistakes the town ever made. “When they tore down the old school buildings, that was a great tragedy. ... We certainly could use those buildings here today to act as a community center,” she said.

Newton County Commissioner and lifelong Ronnie Dimsdale attended the school for a majority of his school career, and was surprised to hear that the remnants of the old building still existed. “I had no idea that parts of the building would still be there. ... I really hated to see those buildings go. I can remember it was a type of building where they would let the windows up to let the air blow through. ... I spent a lot of time trying to learn something in those buildings,” Dimsdale joked.

 Stirring up some memories, he said that in those days Porterdale was a great place to be a kid.

“Porterdale was a nice place to live and visit. ... The town was pedestrian friendly and there were sidewalks everywhere so that you could get around. The police were also tight on speeders, which made it safe for the kids. ... I can remember some of my family coming down from North Georgia and getting a ticket for going 31 m.p.h  in a 30 m.p.h zone,” Dimsdale said.

While the discovery of the old foundation is a surprise find, he said that the town should not worry about preserving the site because the buildings are long gone. “ I do not think that it needs to be saved, but hearing about them finding those bricks sure did bring back a lot of good memories for me,” Dimsdale said.