Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Little Free Library In Summerville--Sharing A Passion For Reading

Tucked away on Summerville's winding streets, among the tall pines and old oaks, sits one of its most elegant properties. Dating back to 1925, it was built by one of the town's richest families, the Prettyman's.

With a business founded on Summerville timber, they established the Prettyman Lumber Company. One of the first sawmill operations in the area beginning in 1902, J. F. Prettyman built his own logging railroad north of town to provide the steady flow of highly demanded timber.

The W 2nd South Street residence is no longer owned by the Prettyman's. Guarded by a short brick wall topped with a black wrought iron fence at its street entrance, a long brick walkway with a tall flower urn at its center leads you to its welcoming front door while a long brick driveway disappears into the properties thick foliage beyond the house where a beautiful old cottage sits.

Comfortably surrounded by an impressive gardenscape accented with birdhouses and pergolas, the three-story, Georgian style house is flanked by tall chimneys and sweeping porches. The homes present owner was tending to his passion when I pulled into the driveway. For the next half hour or so, the gray-haired, soft spoken, 81 year resident shared with me some of the more interesting features of his beautiful home and personal stories of growing up in Summerville.

Pointing to a group of trees beyond the rod iron fence and speaking with a eloquent southern accent, he related how as a young boy he would climb the fence to get to a hickory tree on the other side. As an avid jogger, he often ran past the house and dreamed of owning it. From time to time, he would stop to converse with a black gentleman who took care of the property and would tell him, "Someday, I will own this property." And so, he fulfilled his dream.

He continued, "The property dates back to the Civil War. The cottage behind the house was originally the carriage house. The exterior wood is all cypress and the interior floors are covered with oak and pine. The wood planks run the full length of the floor without any seams." And then, he related the most interesting part of our conversation about the house. "One of the house's fireplace mantles and a window were salvaged from the old Francis Marion Plantation."

My focus now turned to the reason for my stop, his passion. George is an avid reader, who desired to share his chosen hobby with fellow Summervillians. To do that, he hired a carpenter to build a glass door enclosure in the shape of a house with one shelf, which then was mounted on a post and installed near the entrance of his driveway accompanied with a sign reading, Little Free Library, with the additional encouragement, "Take a Book, Leave a Book or Both."

George got the idea from an article in the Post and Courier where an illustration was provided on how to make it. Actually, Little Free Libraries are a community movement that offers free books housed in small containers similar to George's. They are also referred to as community book exchanges, book trading posts, pop-up libraries, and Noox (Neighborhood book exchange). They are popping-up everywhere in the United States and the world.

The idea was popularized in Hudson, Wisconsin in 2009 when Todd Bol mounted a red and white, wooden container designed to look like a school house on a post and placed it on his lawn. He did it as a tribute to his mother, who was a book lover and school teacher. His far reaching goal was to promote literacy and the love of reading and build a sense of community with a sharing of skills, creativity, and wisdom.

Locals have expressed their appreciation to George for his initiative in sharing his passion and valued contribution to the Summerville community by leaving thank you notes in his Little Free Library.

Summerville is well-known for its historic character and hospitality. It is a southern comfort zone wrapped in a warm blanket of community sunshine. George's neighborly gesture confirms those qualities are still tightly woven into the evolving fabric of our Town. From time to time, you may see him tending to his Little Free Library. Be sure to express your appreciation to him for the little bit of sunshine he brings to our growing town. And if you take a book, make sure you leave a book the Timrod Library would be proud to display.

Speaking of reading and books, be sure to attend.

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