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Transforming Antioch
Former student turns old school into community center
Antioch - Cafe
The former Antioch Elementary School cafeteria is now a caf known as The Whistle Stop Caf. - photo by Fraser Speaks

In 1995, Antioch Elementary School (AES) closed its doors for the last time. The school, constructed in 1956, later became the home of Kershaw County Head Start. Johnny Outlaw, a former AES student, took what was once a dilapidated building with a missing roof due to a storm and victim to numerous accounts of vandalism and transformed it into a community center hosting a café, auditorium and space for a sheltered flea market along with many other improvements.

Outlaw attended AES from fifth to eighth grade and wanted to “bring something back to benefit the community.”

“I wanted to make something good out of nothing,” Outlaw said while showing off his handiwork, funded solely on his own. “When I first purchased the property, I really thought that I would just end up using it as a hay barn or something like that.”

The project began in August of 2012. More than a year later, Outlaw is the proud creator of the Antioch Community Center. What was once the school’s cafeteria is now “The Whistle Stop Café.” The AES auditorium has now been refurbished: murals where the windows once were for sound quality improvement, a stage that with the original wood floors just sanded and refinished, seating for roughly 198 people, and a stone fireplace. The space can be rented out for music groups, speakers or other various acts requiring a stage and audio system. There is also a “Green Room” for performers to as well as a back stage door.

Former classrooms have been turned into an open air flea market space, and construction is nearly completed on a second market area as well as a conference room which can also be rented out and hold around 40 people.

Outlaw said he simply “took what was here and converted it” into what it is now. After vandals took bathroom fixtures, furniture and other articles from the building, Outlaw had to replace and redo everything resulting in new bathroom facilities and freshly painted blue and white walls at every turn. 

The Antioch Community Center has already held a few events including an open house and cookout dinner. Outlaw hopes to finish construction on the center during the next week and begin using it as a community market as soon as possible.