Problem Properties: Historic high school stands abandoned

Original Reporting

UNION, S.C. (WSPA) — An abandoned school building in Union County has more behind it than meets the eye.

But some 7 News viewers say they consider it a problem property and wanted to know what’s being done with it.

From the outside, the old Sims Junior High School can be seen as an eye sore, overgrown, and left abandoned.

“Those were the good old days,” Jimmy Peake, who attended the school and now lives across the street, said.

When Peake looks at it, he sees the memories he made inside as a student.

“In 1964. None of this was over here then. That used to be a dead end street,” Peake said.

A historical marker on the site tells the history of this spot. It was built in 1956 and replaced the school on Union Boulevard, which was the first state-accredited high school for Black students in the Upstate.

“In 1964, I was best in state among Black bands. There was no integration back then,” Peake said.

It was turned into the junior high school in 1970 but was closed in 2009.

“I hate to see it happen but you can’t stop progress, so… a lot of fond memories. But hey, that’s it. I never thought I’d be living here 55 years later,” Peake said.

“It got so bad, a lot of money went into it. So they decided to build new junior high school,” Union Mayor Harold Thompson said.

He also went to school here.

“We had one of the best gyms, and that gym is even still in good shape. Of course it still needs to have some things done,” Thompson said. “Some of the other building, you know there was some issue with that but that can be torn down.”

He says it’s sad to see a place that is so special to him, and others in Union’s Black community, in such disarray.

“So I think the more the community, especially the Black community, if we work together and come up with something, other than bickering and stuff like that, about what’s going to happen to it,” Thompson said.

Being in city government, Thompson says he knows how difficult it can be to get something like this taken care of.

“And I know how costly it can be, it’s a burden on whoever owns it now to try and help maintain it,” Thompson said.

But, he says, it’s not like a typical abandoned building. The history here deserves to be treated kindly.

“So whatever happens to it, something needs to happen to it. We don’t just want to see it torn down and history is just gone,” Thompson said.

There is a group of people working to see what can be done to this space.

“I’m hoping that they can bring what’s left of it back and even more great things to happen here,” Thompson said.

And as much as he treasures the past, Peake says he’s looking forward to what can be done in the future for the old Sims High School.

“It would be nice if they could utilize it again. Do something with it. It’s still not only memories but it could be in good shape or something,” Peake said.

Mayor Thompson says there are people in the community who are working to do something positive with this building, but they’re not ready to announce what that is quite yet.

We want to hear from you about problem properties in your community. If you know of any spots that need attention, email them to problemproperty@wspa.com.

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