Site of West End High School

Photograph by Ted Fitzgerald/The Pilot

More than a few people will be sad to see the remaining buildings at the old West End school torn down later this year.

“I hate to see it happen,” said former Moore County Commissioner Jimmy Melton, who graduated from West End High School in 1961. His wife graduated the year before him. “It was such a wonderful school. It brings back so many great memories. But I understand that the time has come.”

The Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday morning to award $162,000 contract to demolish three remaining buildings — the old gym, a classroom building and cafeteria. The contract also includes the removal of materials containing asbestos from those three buildings, according to county Capital Projects Manager Rich Smith.

The school closed with the graduation of the class of 1969. Pinecrest High School opened that fall, consolidating three white and three black high schools in Southern Pines, Pinehurst and Aberdeen, as well as West End, which integrated in 1966 when Pinckney High School in Carthage closed.

The West End School opened in 1927 and served students in first through 12th grade.

Lifelong West End resident Watts Auman, who graduated from the school in 1957, said Monday that he also has fond memories of attending the school. He and all of his siblings graduated from West End.

“It was a wonderful school,” said Auman, whose family operated a well-known peach farm off N.C. 73 in West End. “It will be sad to see it go. It holds so many special memories for a lot of people.”

Melton noted that children who lived in Eagle Springs also attended high school in West End. That community’s school only went through eighth-grade.

Melton, who served as county commissioner from 2006 to 2014, said he worked with members of the school’s class of 1962 to have a granite monument erected during his time on the board.

The county took over ownership of the property from the Board of Education in 1977, according to County Manager Wayne Vest. He told the commissioners that the county will remove and store the monument somewhere, and then determine where it could be placed in the future.

Community groups have used the gym and other buildings for events and activities over the years, including a square dancing group. It has also previously been an early voting site.

Smith told the commissioners that it is becoming “more costly each year to maintain the buildings and property with little or no financial return to the county through periodic rentals,” primarily the gym. He said one building is “totally abandoned and unusable,” while the other two are “in very poor condition and should not be used.”

After razing the buildings, the county plans to put the 5.75-acre property up for sale. Vest told the commissioners during a daylong work session in October that the county will seek to have it rezoned for commercial use in an effort to increase its value.

He told the board in October that the property was appraised at $403,000 but that he thought it might fetch more than that when it is sold.

Whatever the county receives for the property will go toward construction of a new recreation center at Hillcrest Park in Carthage, minus the $162,000 to pay for demolishing the buildings.

Before selling the property, the county will have to see how much additional land the N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT) will need for right of way when it widens N.C. 211 in front of the site. Vest said it will involve just a small portion of the property.

The school is not the only landmark in West End that will be erased from the landscape.

NCDOT plans to demolish the nearby long-defunct Stanley Furniture Plant to make way for widening N.C. 211.

Planning is underway widening the section of N.C. 211, from N.C. 73 in West End to the far side of the greater Seven Lakes area.

Melton said the furniture plant and school were fixtures in West End, which is an unincorporated community.

The old Aberdeen and West End Railway extended into West End in the 1880s, which was the home of the Sandhills Furniture plant.

He said the plant was owned back then by the VonCannon family, which later sold it to Stanley Furniture.

The plant itself closed in 2001. Stanley Furniture manufactured youth bedroom furniture there. Warehousing and some other activities continued for a short time later.

Melton said pretty much everyone living in the West End area probably worked there at one time.

“That was the No. 1 place to work back in those days,” he said.

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