If Gary Thorne, one of the owners of Savannah Construction and Preservation, has his way, the restoration will be completed in time for a Christmas celebration. Formal groundbreaking ceremonies for the restoration are slated for 11 a.m. at the campus on the side of a hill off Padlock Mountain Road, however Thorne's crews mobilized this week and are already at the task of shoring up the extremely shaky foundation.
"We have a federal grant and the grant funding expires at the end of September," Thorne said. "For the foundation and stabilization phase they have to have it done by then." He said his crews will be working ten hours a day, six days a week, maybe seven through the end of the month to get that work completed.
"It's a tight schedule in order to get paid by the government to do it," Thorne said.
Savannah Construction and Preservation LLC won the bidding for the work at $250,000. Two other firms were involved in the bidding. Thorne said his company is solely involved in preservation work because he doesn't want to see history lost.
"This is a really great era because it's not old enough to be cool, per se, but it's old enough to be forgotten and abandoned and left for decay," Thorne said. "Anytime a building of this era comes up we want to be involved in trying to save it. If we can save it, in 200 years when it's interesting again they'll have something to be interested in."
Joyce Perdue-Smith has served as chairwoman for the corporation and said the ceremonies set for Saturday are a dream come true.
"Not so much for me, but for the alumni of the school," Perdue-Smith said. Close to 70 alumni of the Fairview School have been contacted by her organization and maybe two dozen of them have been very active with fundraising efforts over the last decade.
"The school meant everything to them. It was a place where they felt good about themselves, they received a quality education and many of them have elevated themselves to be able to do things they never dreamed of doing."
She laughed as she recalled watching 70- and 80-year-old men that have been very diligent about cutting the grass, and many of the women have been involved in bake sales to raise money for the preservation and restoration.
The Fairview campus in Cave Spring was created in 1924 across the highway from the old Georgia School for the Deaf campus. It was the result of the philanthropic efforts of Julius Rosenwald, CEO and later chairman of the board for Sears & Roebuck, who joined forces with Booker T. Washington for the advancement of educational opportunities for African-American children all across the country, but particularly in the South. About 5,000 schools were built between 1912 and 1932.
The remains of the first grade class building were listed on the 2011 Top Ten Places in Peril list by the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation.
Late in 2017, local philanthropists Wes Walraven and Brian Moore decided that it was past time to get work started so they developed a $75,000 pledge challenge. They would contribute $75,000 if the rest of the community would raise another $100,000.
Walraven said that after he and Moore bought the Lyons Bridge Farm south of Cave Spring they felt connected to the community.
"This is an important project for the African-American community which has a long history there in Chubbtown," Walraven said. "We've got a lot of neighbors who are descendants of the original Chubbtown families," He said that he felt good about the pledge challenge all along. "We support so many things in the community, I assumed people that we supported would step up and support us," he said.
Walraven said that since he drives by the historic property any time he goes to the farm, there isn't much question that he and Moore will be supportive of future expansion of the grounds to serve as a living museum.
Perdue-Smith said this first phase of the overall project involves use of the 70-plus-year-old building to house a museum-like educational component.