Hardens reminisce about building the Rock

Published 7:25 pm Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Jon Harden, Lena Harden and Gerald Harden are among the first to ''Save a Rock'  in the effort to restore the historic Rock Building.

Jon Harden, Lena Harden and Gerald Harden are among the first to ”Save a Rock’ in the effort to restore the historic Rock Building.












Lena Danner Harden was only 5 years old when the last rock was cemented into the Pike Activities Building in 1939. She doesn’t remember a lot about the construction of the “Rock Building” except her dad, Perry “P.L.” Danner, was the master mason on that project and that she and her family had their picture taken in a studio on the day her dad received his bonus for a job well done.

Harden sat down with her husband, John, and nephew, Gerald Harden, Monday to dust off the memories of the Rock Building and the role it played in their lives and its importance to the Pike County community in 1939 and in the year 2014.

P.L. Danner lived in the River Road area of Barbour County and his skill as a brick mason qualified him as master mason for the Works Progress Administration (WPA) project that would be the central location for all Pike County administrative offices.

“My dad also worked on the WPA City Hall project in Brundidge,” Harden said. “I know he walked from home to Brundidge and back for that project, but he caught a ride to Troy because that would have been too long a walk.”

Being a child, Harden’s memory of the Rock Building is limited. She doesn’t remember, as her brother Coy Danner does, that their dad’s bonus check was so lucrative that their mama went on a spending spree and bought more than they could carry home.

“But, I do know that it was a lot of money for our family,” Harden said, laughing.

The construction of the Rock Building helped sustain many Pike County families during the Great Depression and was a “God-send” to the community, Harden said.

John Harden and Gerald Harden were, like Lena Harden, only children when the Rock Building was being constructed but they remember the role their families played in the WPA project.

Gerald Harden said his family, like so many others gathered rocks and stack them by their mailboxes to be picked up and taken to the building site in downtown Troy.

His dad, J.C. Harden, used his brand new pickup truck to transport rocks to the construction site.

“We, like farm families all over the county, picked up rocks in the fields and donated them to the building project,” John Harden said. “Everybody wanted to do their part in building a facility that would serve the needs of farm families.

“Those who had vehicles or wagons would load the rocks and take them to the site. I don’t imagine there were many families that didn’t contribute to the building of the Rock Building in some way.”

Being poor was a universal condition back then, Gerald Harden said.

“Rocks were plentiful and didn’t cost anything so donating rocks was a way farm people could contribute,” he said. “And, too, they were probably glad to get the rocks out of their fields.

“But, mainly, people worked together and pulled together. They had to in order to survive.”

The Rock Building is testimony to the perseverance of Pike County people and a monument to the memory of those who “toted rocks” and those who toiled to construct a building as solid as a rock.

“It’s amazing that the Rock Building is still standing and that’s in tribute to those who constructed it,” John Harden said. “Trained and untrained masons worked on the building and it’s still standing strong after 75 years.”

Gerald Harden said it’s almost unbelievable that men, probably working from sketches, could have “put together” such a handsome building.

“Can you imagine the strength it took to lift those rocks and hold them in place to mortar them,” he said. “Even the small rocks are heavy. I can’t imagine the strength it took to lift the big ones. Even with a scaffold, you had to get the rocks up on it and then lift them into place.”

Lena Harden said the Rock Building is “a work of art.”

The Hardens all agreed the building is unique in its construction and it’s most important because of its place in Pike County history.

“There’s no way to put a dollar value on it,” Gerald Harden said. “And, it will be of more value, historically and dollar wise, as time goes by.”

The Hardens said they don’t know the price tag hanging on the restoration of the Rock Building but they know that, once it’s gone, a billion dollars won’t bring it back.

The 75th Anniversary of the dedication of the Rock Building will be from 2 until 4 p.m. Sunday at the Rock Building. The celebration will kickoff the fundraising efforts to “Save the Rock Building.”

David Helms, who is spearheading the grassroots efforts to save the historic building, said more than 3,000 people attended the dedication of the Pike County Activities Building in July 1939.

“Hopes are to raise $3,000 or more in ‘Save the Rock’ donations in honor of the 3,000 people who attended the dedication,” he said. “For only $10, you can ‘Save a Rock’ and those donations will be the seed money to restore the Rock Building.”

Entertainment for the 75th Anniversary Celebration of the dedication of the Rock Building will be by the Benton Brothers. Goober cocktails and Moon Pies will be served. At 3:00 p.m., Steve Flowers will read a proclamation in support of the efforts to save the Rock Building that is signed by governing officials in the county.