Sep. 24—The old Aiken County Hospital has joined the Aiken Training Track, St. Thaddeus Episcopal Church, The Willcox and a number of other buildings and sites locally on the National Register of Historic Places.
A brick structure located at 828 Richland Ave. W. in Aiken, the old hospital was added to the federal government's official list Sept. 13.
Aiken County is owner of the 57,408-square-foot edifice.
The old hospital, which was constructed prior to World War II, is under contract to be sold to 828 Richland Associates LLC for $1.15 million.
After the agreement with the county was reached in April, a 180-day due diligence period followed that is scheduled to end in late October. But an extension is possible because a telecommunications tower on the old hospital's property won't be torn down and removed by then.
The registered agent for 828 Richland Avenue Associates is Charles I. Small, a Columbia-based real estate developer.
"The request was put forward by the buyer to have it (the old hospital) on the National Register," said Aiken County Council Chairman Gary Bunker. "What it does is make the buyer eligible for certain economic incentives."
Based on the county's understanding, the plans for the old hospital include preserving and repurposing it if the deal is finalized.
"They truly do intend to rehab it," County Administrator Clay Killian said.
But if something changes, being on the National Register doesn't mean that the old hospital never could be razed, according to Killian.
County officials have considered knocking down the building in the past.
"If it ultimately needed to be demolished, it could be," Killian said. "It (a National Register listing) doesn't eliminate the possibility. It just would be a little harder to do."
In addition to serving as a medical facility, the old hospital was Aiken County government's headquarters for a while.
That role ended in 2014 when the $35.7 million Aiken County Government Center on University Parkway opened.
Since county government employees moved out, the old hospital has been vacant and trespassing has been a problem.
"We've had trouble keeping people out," Killian told the Aiken Standard this past summer. "Some get in there and camp out because they need a place to stay, but some get in there and destroy things and steal copper wiring or anything else that they can get their hands on. Every time we secure one area, they'll break out another window or pry open another door. We've done all we know to do with locks and all that. Public Safety goes by as much as they can."
In late July, there was a fire in the old hospital. An Aiken Department of Public Safety report on the blaze filed soon afterward identified its cause as "intentional."
The damage caused by the fire was minor.
"The building has been significantly vandalized anyway, so I don't know that it created any more problems than we already had," Killian said.
The old hospital stands on a nearly 9.5-acre tract, and there are other buildings on the property.
The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 authorized the creation of the National Register.
Overseen by the National Park Service, the list is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate and protect historic and archeological resources.