- Last Updated on 07:46 AM 12/20/10
- BY Paula I. Bryant
Architect Greg Rutledge of Hanbury Evans Wright Vlottis and Company of Norfolk is scheduled to unveil plans tonight on how First Presbyterian Church can use the historic Lawson-Johnston home to fit its future plans for expansion and growth.
Halifax County Historical Society members, joined by other area residents as well as area preservationists, are pressuring the church to save the Lawson-Johnston house on North Main Street from future demolition.
The congregation of First Presbyterian Church voted earlier this year to purchase the two-story brick house, located adjacent to the church, for $191,000.
At that time, the church’s pastor said the majority of those voting wanted to buy the property so the church would have space to expand in the future.
However, the congregation agreed to allow time for concerned individuals and groups to retain an architect to evaluate the structure and make recommendations to the church committee for renovating the historic home.
Tonight, Rutledge will show a joint meeting of the church’s nine elders and deacons how he envisions the church can use the historic home if it is preserved.
The board is expected to make its decision of whether to raze the house or preserve it sometime before January.
According to Historical Society member Carol Foster who is spearheading the preservation effort, the architectural designs feature a fellowship hall connecting the church to the Lawson-Johnston house and maintaining the structure as part of the historic district in the Town of South Boston.
Built by Robert W. Lawson, the house later became the childhood home of the late South Boston physician Dr. Lewis Johnston, thus the property became known as the Lawson-Johnston house.
Many Lawson family members continue to be part of the First Presbyterian congregation, according to the Rev. Dr. Russell Lee, pastor of the church.
He described the purchase of the adjoining property as “a long-term investment.”
The pastor said he views this as a “very important issue for our congregation – a historic issue and a future issue.
As the church plans for its future, Historical Society members and others are encouraging the congregation to renovate and preserve the structure to meet the church’s needs as opposed to razing the historic home.
Local photographer Andrew J. Bohanon, who has had the privilege of photographing historical homes in this area since the early 70s, said it is his hope that the congregation of the First Presbyterian Church “will overwhelmingly choose to preserve and utilize the integrity of this magnificent structure.”
A board member of the local historical society, Bohanon said he is deeply involved in the preparation of a book recognizing the multiple architectural features found in the area.
One of the homes he has photographed for the book is the Lawson-Johnston House.
“This house appears to be sound, and it is certainly worth every effort to be saved and utilized,” he said. “If this structures goes down, there will be a void which any of us living now cannot fill.”
Halifax County Historical Society President Barbara Bass said the historical society continues to accept funds to help support the efforts to save the property.
Anyone wishing to make a donation may send a check to the Halifax County Historical Society, P. O. Box 601, South Boston, VA 24592. Persons are asked to write “Lawson-Johnston Project” on the check.
“The Halifax County Historical Society continues as part of its mission to encourage owners of historic properties to preserve them, if at all possible. Many of these structures are usually in good condition and cannot be replaced,” Bass said.