By Adam Zewe
September 22, 2010 (c/o Community News)
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
When Greenville’s Bayard Marin was driving through Quaker Hill with his wife, Sonia, and she pointed out the beautiful architecture of an abandoned, run-down building, he said he didn’t quite see it.
Fast-forward 27 years and Marin now operates his law office out of that building, which he ended up buying and completely refurbishing. But it is also the base of operations for the Quaker Hill Historic Preservation Foundation, an organization he founded in 1992 to help ensure the neighborhood never reaches the same point of deterioration in which he found it.
“Our goal is to reach out to the world to let them know we exist, to let the public know that Quaker Hill is a marvelous historic resource,” he said.
Under the leadership of Marin and others in the neighborhood, the foundation began hosting seminars on the history of Quaker Hill and broader topics like crime prevention.
Marin and the foundation established education programs about the Underground Railroad, which passed through Thomas Garrett’s Quaker Hill home in the mid-1800s, like the Historic Arts Program, which teaches kids about history and architecture through photography and sculpture, he explained.
The group has also been instrumental in finding buyers for historic homes that have been abandoned. For example, when the 609 West Street home of Elwood Garrett, son of the famed abolitionist, was left abandoned and derelict by a developer, Marin and the foundation brokered a deal that helped the United Cerebral Palsy Group buy the property to restore it and turn it into seven independent living apartments for people suffering from the disease, he said.
“It turns into a win-win situation for Quaker Hill because we got this building developed and we are serving a real need for people with disabilities,” he said.
But Marin shies away from taking too much credit. He was recently recognized by the Cooch’s Bridge chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution with a Historic Preservation Medal and said, while he is honored to receive the award, he hopes it raises awareness of the good things happening in Quaker Hill.
Ultimately, Marin said, the work he’s done in Quaker Hill is about ensuring the neighborhood’s future treats it better than its recent past.
Nearly 300 years of proud history almost slipped away thanks to a few decades of crime and degradation, he said, but if the foundation keeps Quaker Hill in the public eye, its future as a historic resource can be cemented.