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New life at Mather

Posted: July 10, 2017 3:16 p.m.
Updated: July 11, 2017 1:00 a.m.

I recently visited the new Cedarbrook apartment community and quickly realized it is perfectly suited to bring new life to the former Boylan-Haven-Mather Academy property.

Browning Home and Mather Academy was founded by the Women’s Home Missionary Society of the Methodist Church in 1887 as a model home and industrial school for children of former slaves. The students were given a broad curriculum, which included literature, music, art, drama, sports, journalism and Bible study. Homemaking skills were also part of the curriculum. 

The school was located on 27 acres purchased by Sarah Babcock in 1867. The main building of the school, which stood on the southwest corner of DeKalb and Campbell Streets, was the old Lang Plantation house built in 1814 by Thomas Lang. Just after the end of the Civil War, Miss Babcock came to Camden to teach children in a building on Broad Street near the old courthouse. Miss Babcock returned to New England shortly after 1867 and married the Rev. James Mather. In 1883, she introduced the idea of a school for Negro girls and boys in Camden to the Women’s Home Missionary Society and they worked diligently to raise the money.

The school educated both boarding students and day students for 96 years, before closing in 1983. During those years, other Methodist schools combined with Mather Academy. The Haven Industrial Home and School in Savannah, Ga, and the Boylan School in Jacksonville, Fla., merged with Mather in 1959. Mather Academy taught students in grades 1 through 11 through 1927. In 1928, grade 12 was added. At some point in time, a kindergarten was also added. This private school had a profound impact on generations of young people. Of noted history, the Academy held an “A” rating by 1934, a distinction held by only three other schools in the State of South Carolina.  

Greenway Residential Development of Charlotte is the catalyst of bringing new life to this property by way of beautiful, affordable housing. HMR Inc. Portfolio Manager Lynn Kordek had only been on-site for three days when I visited.

“We rarely see a developer invest the time, energy and amenities of these apartments”, Kordek said. “It is exciting to be here and to be accepting applications.”

The exterior of the buildings are most attractive and each apartment hosts a patio/balcony which will allow the residents to enjoy the laughter of children from the center playground and walking course. There is also a large gazebo area for cooking out and dining out in the center of the community.

And then you enter the apartments. There are two- and three-bedroom offerings. First, I want to note that each is built with top safety standards including fire walls throughout and each one is under sprinkler systems. Second, the aesthetics are modern and attractive. The foyers are large, hosting a coat closet; and you immediate notice the wood-like flooring. The rooms are nice-sized, and every unit has two baths. The kitchens are bright and well equipped with all appliances and plenty of cabinetry and a pantry. They are wired for cable/internet which will allow each resident to acquire the services that meet their needs. 

In addition, residents will have key fobs that allow them access to the fitness room, the computer room, and the library area. Each apartment has washer/dryer connections, but there is also a small laundry area in this building. This new community also brings two full-time employees, the community director/manager and the maintenance director. 

If you’d like to know more about Mather Academy, please visit our Camden Archives and Museum. Director Katherine Richardson was very kind to share this history. With school out and as you seek activities for your children, please take them to experience the Camden Archives and Museum.

It is exciting to have new growth and life in Camden. We also have many other new projects: 1) everyone has heard that Starbucks is coming, 2) a new assisted living facility, 3) a Hampton Inn, 4) an expansion and new leader at Central Carolina Technical College campus, 5) new dining locations, 6) a tennis complex and 7) The Main Street program, and more. Your entire city council is excited about the direction of our hometown and would love to hear from you. In addition, you can find me at Camden City Hall almost every business day. We would also like to have you join us twice a month for the council meetings, held every second and fourth Tuesday at city hall.

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