Darlington veterans monument will occupy space once gutted by do - WBTW-TV: News, Weather, and Sports for Florence, SC

Darlington Veterans Monument will occupy space gutted by downtown fire

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The site of a former building gutted by a fire in downtown Darlington, will soon be home to a veterans memorial park. The site of a former building gutted by a fire in downtown Darlington, will soon be home to a veterans memorial park.
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DARLINGTON, S.C. -

A portion of downtown Darlington is drastically changing, nearly two years after a downtown fire gutted portions of a historic building on the town's square.

The October, 2011 electrical fire started in an alterations shop just off of Main St., and quickly turned into an inferno that tore through several shops and left the building that housed them, in ruins.

"The whole building was totally engulfed in flames. The police chief and the fire chief were all out here. It was obvious that the building was a goner," Darlington Mayor Tony Watkins said of the day the fire occurred.

Since that time, Watkins said he, other city officials and the owner of the building, who is also the city's fire chief, debated as to exactly what would or should happen with the gutted site.

"Unfortunately, it could not be saved. The fire had damaged bricks to the point where we could not keep the walls remaining," Watkins said of the structure.

City officials were eventually approached by a committee working to build a veterans memorial in Darlington, and the two decided together to construct the project on the site damaged by the fire.

The property owner donated the land and Watkins said last week, officials were able to knock down the existing exterior walls that remained.

City officials are working to help maintain whatever kind of history they can, for the burned-down building, and will actually be preserving some of the bricks that remain, to use them in the veteran's wall.

The memorial site will feature the wall and potentially a water-feature and landscaping.

Watkins said plans for the site could grow over time as funding grows.

City officials designated about $75,000 in hospitality tax funds to go toward the project and the committee working on the site has raised about $20,000 from purchases of bricks by those wanting to put names on the veterans wall.

"They have money in the bank, they're ready to work and we're gonna start seeing changes very, very soon," Watkins said.

Site work is underway and is expected to continue over the next several months.

Watkins said the project could be complete, within a year's time.

 

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