If these walls could talk

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 24, 2003

A movement is under way to restore the Rock Building and make it, once again, a hub of community activities.

Larry Davis, Pike County Emergency Management director, said the main purpose in wanting to restore the building is as an Emergency Operations Center (EOC) for Pike County.

"Having an EOC would be extremely valuable in any kind of emergency," Davis said. "Not only do we have concerns about natural disasters, we are now in a heightened state of readiness because of threats to homeland security. We need a facility of this kind now more than ever."

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Davis in emergency situations having a central location from which the emergency agencies would mean quicker and more efficient response time and would also be more accessible to those needing assistance.

"In an emergency people from the state emergency management office, FEMA, the road departments, the Red Cross, the utilities departments could all work out of the same office," Davis said. "By congregating all of these resources we would be able to operate more efficiently. By being there together, the left hand would know what the right hand was doing. This would benefit our citizens greatly, as well as the agencies involved in the operations."

Davis said the most recent natural disaster to affect Pike County was Hurricane Opal in 1985.

"Thankfully, we don't have many such disasters, but it doesn't take but one to devastate an area," he said. "That's why we want to be prepared in case we do have some kind of emergency situation."

A local EOC would also benefit other counties in Southeast Alabama and beyond.

"Back during the Elba floods, FEMA set up headquarters here in Pike County," Davis said. "The Rock Building belongs to the county and I believe the county has a responsibility to have an EOC. The Rock Building is a well-built building. It's as solid as a rock."

Davis said when the building is not being used in emergency situations, it will be of major benefit to the county as the Emergency Management Agency and the Red Cross office.

"Other agencies such as E-911 could locate there and the County Commission and the Veterans Affairs office if they want to move out of the basement of the courthouse."

Davis said there would be space for meeting rooms and clubs and Scouts could have a home there.

"This biggest thing would be that the activities building would be opened back up to the county," he said. "I think it would be a good idea, but we will probably need a grassroots movement to support it."

The historical significance of the building is also reason to restore and preserve the building.

George Grubbs said the Pike Activities Building was constructed around 1937.

"That was back during the WPA (Works Progress Administration) so it could have very well been a WPA project because a lot of local funds were secured through the WPA,' Grubbs said. "What I remember is that a lot of the local masons worked on the building."

Grubbs father, Dan Grubbs, a master brick mason, worked on the building along with other masons including, James Love, Simon Byrd, Ernest Pilligrew, Tom Croskey and Sylvester White.

Grubbs said the masons were paid hourly wages and

probably worked from a sketch.

"Back then a top brick layer might make anywhere from 75 cent to a dollar an hour," he said. "Other less skilled masons would make anywhere form 40 to 50 cents an hours."

Laying rocks wasn't an easy job. The rocks had been deposited near the building, but the mason had to do a lot of lifting to get them in the right place.

"The rocks had to fit and that wasn't always easy," Grubbs said. "They were laid in a spider webbing pattern

and the masons used a beaded joint to connect them."

Grubbs said a beaded joint is a raise joint which is "rolled out" with a mason's tool.

"Beaded joints are more durable because that shed water better than u-shaped joints," he said. "The Rock Building is an example of the outstanding skill of our local brick masons in those days. It is certainly worth saving and I can think of nothing I would like to see more than it put back to use."

"It took the commitment of a lot of people to build a building like that," Davis said. "People brought rocks from their farms and donated them in order for the people of Pike County to have a central location for community activities. There is a lot to be said about people working together for a common cause. It happened once. With the support of the people of Pike County it can happen again."