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Mum’s the word as elders seal fate of historic home

The Session of Elders of South Boston’s First Presbyterian Church met Monday night to decide the fate of the historic Lawson-Johnston House, but they are not releasing that information to the community.

“We made the decision, but we thought we should notify the church body of the decision first,” said Paul Nichols, elder and spokesman for the group, Tuesday.

“After church members are notified, the information will be made available to the community,” Nichols said. “I anticipate that will be sometime later this week or over the weekend.”

Nichols said the Session  consists of nine members, with three going off the group and three new members coming on. “We believed this matter was important, so all 12, including those going off the membership of the session, were present at Monday’s meeting,” he explained.

Last month the deacons and elders of the church got a look at an architect’s proposed adaptive use of the historic Lawson-Johnston house, including new construction, additions to the historic church and adaptive use of the two-story brick structure located adjacent to the church on North Main Street.

Earlier in the year the church purchased the Lawson-Johnston House for $191,000 with an eye on demolishing the building and using the property for expansion purposes.

Members of the Halifax County Historical Society voiced their opposition to demolition of the historic home and began a campaign to save the building.

Greg Rutledge, AIA historic preservation architect for Hanbury Evans Wright Vlattas + Co., met with church leaders last month to show how he envisions the church can use the historic home should they decide to preserve it.

Rutledge discussed the historic and architectural importance of the house, its current condition, and he attempted to help the church understand the integrity of the house is intact, and how the potential for its continued use could be an asset to the church and the community.

With information provided by the church, Rutledge said he explored several concepts for adaptive use of the house including a concept that would join the house and the church with a very reserved piece of infill construction.

Rutledge told church leaders the infill construction would house the footprint of a fellowship hall that could not be accommodated in either of the historic structures. He said other spaces and uses could be accommodated in renovated areas of the church and the Lawson-Johnston House.

The character of the 800 block of Main Street would essentially remain unchanged, according to the plans, with both historic structures benefiting from continued use, Rutledge said.