Piece of history

Published 9:28 am Monday, June 27, 2011

Atmore Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Sheryl Vickery and Byard Swift sit in the renovated Boy Scout hut on Thursday. At top, two Boy Scouts receive badges surrounded by guests.|Photo by Chandler Myers

History goes on display Sunday afternoon on Craig Street when the Atmore Area Chamber of Commerce and the Leadership Atmore Class of 2009 dedicate the Boy Scout hut in an afternoon reception.

The hut, which was built in the 1930s, has been renovated inside and out as an effort to preserve the building and increase public use.

Sheryl Vickery, executive director for the Atmore Area Chamber of Commerce, said the hut is nearly complete after several parties took an active involvement in the work on it.

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“We are about 90 percent finished inside,” she said. “We actually started this project in 2008 and the Leadership Atmore Class of 2009 took on the project when they graduated. We had Donnie Boatwright renovate the building, but before that happened, Byard Swift and I talked about it and we were not sure if we would be able to fix the library on the back of the building. Donnie came in and realized he could save the back part of it, and it looks great.”

With the help of the Leadrship Atmore Class of 2009 along with a grant from the Gulf Coast Resource Conservation and Development, the project began to take shape.

The idea for the renovation was to bring out the brighter side of the building, Vickery said.

“We took a little different look to the inside of the hut when we started the work,” she said. “It was very dark and brown inside, so Donnie took me out to a building that he had worked on. The work that has been gives it a rustic look and it’s a very attractive building. There is a little more work to do on the building, but fortunately when the money from the Gulf Coast RC&D grant ran out, the newer part that connects the two buildings is the only part that we have not completed yet. It won’t take much to finish it because it’s the least damaged part of the hut.”

Atmore native Byard Swift took an active role with renovations; in fact, Vickery credited him as the man behind the idea.

Swift was a longtime Scout, along with his sons, and said that motivated him to push the project.

“I’m a long time scouter here, but I didn’t anything to do with the building being here,” he said. “It was built in the late 1930s with the other part being added on later. I have three sons that came through the scouts. Two of them are Eagle Scouts and one of them is a star. It’s just been sitting here, so some of us got together and decided that it needed to be rebuilt. Various things have been fixed in it such as the floor and roof. The grant really helped us get the work done”

The hut has history surrounding it dating back several decades with the different uses of the building stirring up memories.

People always stop by and talk about what they remember the hut being used for, Vickery said

“It’s an important piece of Atmore,” she said. “When we started coming out and having work days out here, people started stopping by and saying that they took band in the building, was a boy or girl scout at the hut or took kindergarten in the building when it was on the property for Rachel Patterson Elementary School. The back part has a lot of history in Atmore too because it was used as the Atmore bandstand. On Dec. 7, 1941, they were having a concert that afternoon when the news came in that Pearl Harbor had been attacked by the Japanese. It was later move to where Martin Luther King Drive as was the library named for Corneillia Elmore.”

The dedication and reception on Sunday will begin at 2 p.m. and feature several different speakers and displays.

The reception will be open to the public to come and see the work that has been done, Vickery said.

“Well it’s going to be an open house dedication,” she said. “There will be some speeches. Mr. Swift will say a few words, and he’s the man who really got behind the project. We are also going to be showing off the hut and some of the pictures that will be hanging around the hut. We want anyone that would like to come out and see the hut.”