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Construction Begins at Sweetwater Community Center

web posted August 14, 2014

MERRIWETHER   A week after the Edgefield County Council voted to approve the funding of the historic Sweetwater Community Center workers were already on the project digging footers for an addition for restrooms and piers for the large deck that will stretch across nearly the entire back of the upper level. The county project, spearheaded by Edgefield County Council Vice-chair Genia Blackwell of Merriwether, is the first in the Merriwether and Sweetwater communities and has been nearly two years in the making.

"This is an exciting time and I am absolutely thrilled for the Merriwether-Sweetwater Community and Edgefield County," Blackwell said Wednesday afternoon after seeing the progress being made.

"This will be a great asset to all. Of course, this is the first phase with the hope of additional improvements to the property in the future including a playground for small children and a covered gazebo," Blackwell said. "A huge thank you goes out to Ambassador and Mrs. Cooper and the Sweetwater Community Board of Trustees for the donation of the property to the county. In addition, a thank you to the majority of our County Council for having the vision to agree that this project will bring a special quality of life for the citizens of Edgefield County. (County) Administrator Lynn Strom has been my right hand person through this entire planning process and I am grateful to her for all the hard work she has put forth to make this possible. I believe there is an exciting future ahead for the Merriwether Community and Edgefield County."

Mrs. Blackwell said she also wanted to thank Merriwether resident Linda Anderson for her time, efforts and contributions toward the project. 

Stewart Builders, of Aiken, was awarded the $347,000 contract for the restoration and additions to the existing building, said to date back to the turn of the 20th century, and is expected to be completed around February or March of 2015.

The building was originally built by the Cooper family of Sweetwater to replace a one room school house that burned down on what is now Old McDonald Fish Camp on Currytown Road. It was later added on to and was used as a community center when newer schools were built in the county.

The community center flourished until the late 1970's or early 1980's when it fell into disrepair and was thought to be unsalvageable. After negotiations between Vice-chair Genia Blackwell, County Administrator Lynn Strom and Merriwether Fire Chief Joey Smith with Ambassador Henry Cooper and his family, the family agreed to donate the building and four acres of land to the county to make the project possible.

As it turned out the building was able to be salvaged and will once again be a center for community gatherings, weddings, and other events. A ribbon cutting will be held when the project has been completed.

In the photo below is the community center before volunteers from the Merriwether Fire Department and the community joined together to clean up the trees and undergrowth that had taken over the property, making the structure unable to be seen from the roadway.

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