SAVING THE ROCK: Grassroots efforts kick off to save the Rock Building

Published 8:45 pm Friday, July 11, 2014

Sherry Helms paints ‘rocks’ on the boarded windows of the Rock Building in downtown Troy Friday afternoon in preparation for the Save the Rock event on Sunday.  MESSENGER PHOTO | APRIL GARON

Sherry Helms paints ‘rocks’ on the boarded windows of the Rock Building in downtown Troy Friday afternoon in preparation for the Save the Rock event on Sunday.

Sherry Helms was painting images of rocks on Friday in anticipation of the 75th Anniversary of the dedication of the Pike Activities Building, a.k.a. the Rock Building.

The event takes place from 2 until 4 p.m. Sunday at the site of the Rock Building. The public is invited to attend.

The celebration is the kickoff event for the grassroots efforts to save the Rock Building and return the historic structure to a prominent place in the community. Helms has been key in that grassroots effort and the rocks she painted on Friday helped recognize early donors to the effort.

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Community members are being invited to donate to a fund to help restore the historic building and those who donate at least $10 will be honored by having their names painted in a “rock” on boards at the building.

Honorary donors John and Lena Harden and Gerald Harden will be on hand Sunday as well, representing all those whose family members contributed rocks or labor to the original construction of the building.

Lena Harden’s father was a master mason on the project and John’s brother, J.C. Harden, was charged with picking up the rocks donated by residents throughout the county. Gerald is J.C. Harden’s son.

The Rock Building was built by a WPA project that started in 1937. Construction used rocks collected from individuals and fields throughout Pike County. The building was dedicated on July 12, 1939, to the farm families of the county and was the hub of county activities before it was heavily damaged by an arsonist’s fire more than 20 years ago.

The times are far different from those when the building was dedicated but the commitment of the people of Pike County must be as firm as that of those whose handprints are all over the Rock Building.

On July 13, 1939, the headlines in The Troy Messenger read: “Thousands Inspect Activities Building at Gala Opening.”

Smaller headlines announced “Thousands of WPA Strikers are Dismissed” while other headlines brought news that “Russians and Japanese Are Mixing Up Again” and “Great Britain Adds Millions to War Chest.”

Those were the times during which Pike County was paying tribute to the “farm families of Pike County” with the opening of a handsome building about 70 feet by 180 feet that was constructed with fields rocks gathered from fields in every corner of the county.

The county’s handprint was all over the building and the 3,000-plus people who attended were there to celebrate.

According to The Troy Messenger, the entire program went off according to schedule.

Congressman George Grant was in fine fettle notwithstanding a long and hard trip from Washington to be present at the exercises and presided as master of ceremonies. Preliminary remarks by Congressman Grant were preceded by a concert by Mr. Herman Moll’s band, which evoked generous applause from the packed auditorium.

Just preceding the evening’s program, the entire audience stood and sang “America” under the direction of W.L. Powers with Mrs. Mary Selman at the piano. Then came the dedicatory remarks by Congressman Grant, followed by a violin solo by Miss Elizabeth Selman with Mrs. Selman as accompanist.

Probate Judge Alex Brantley made a few brief remarks and stated that this building was now dedicated to the farm people of this county and, best of all, there is not a cent of indebtedness against it.

This statement by Judge Brantley about the building being free from any kind of debt was received with cheers by the audience. Commissioners Jack L. Giddens, Homer Brantley, H.G. Caldwell and W.D. Folmar got a good hand for their part in the culmination of this dream of Pike County farm folk.

Acceptance of the building on behalf of the farm people was made by Willie B. Crawley and Mrs. W.R. McLure.

For this Sunday’s event, entertainment will be by the Benton Brothers. Goober cocktails and Moon Pies will be served to supporters and a proclamation will be read by Steve Flowers at 3 p.m.