Babcock Building owners say their ‘commitment is not diminished’ after Saturday fire

Updated: Sep. 14, 2020 at 8:05 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The owner of the Babcock Building in the BullStreet District plans to move forward with renovating the historic landmark.

“Our assumption at this time is that we will be able to go forward,” Hugh Shytle, president of Cachlan Properties said.

In a statement, the owner of the building says his organization still plans to turn the building into apartments as was previously planned.

“Clachan Properties undertook the renovation of the Babcock Building knowing its significance to the community. Our commitment is not diminished. Our enthusiasm is solid,” said Shytle.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, according to the Columbia Police Department. CPD is working with SLED and ATF on the investigation.

CPD says the persons of interest captured on surveillance video around the time of the fire have been identified and met with CPD and SLED. However, the eight people identified told officials they didn’t have any information about what caused the fire.

In the days following the fire, dozens of people came to the building to see the damage for themselves. Some of them like Suzanne Hardeman had a personal connection to the building. Hardeman was a nursing student at the Babcock in the 1960s and 1970s. Looking at the building the day after the fire, she said she was flooded with memories of a place with a lot of character.

“I think she does have a little bit of a personality,” Hardeman said of the building, “in that she holds a lot of memories as well as secrets, and she was always growing with new wings here and there and new patients.”

She said the Babcock Building reminds her of a different time in mental health when doctors often didn’t know how to help or diagnose some of their patients.

“There were just a lot of people who were very scary at the time because treatments were not very available during that period,” she said.

Other people who used to work in the building felt the same range of emotions about the building.

“How it was back then was a depressing time, but it’s sad for me to see this now. With it burned down...I have mixed feelings about that,” Peggy Alexander, a student nurse at the Babcock Building in the 1950s, said.

However, both women also thought about the good times as they walked the grounds around the building.

“When we were off duty, we had a very good time. Go down Calhoun Street and go shopping. Columbia was a different place by then,” Alexander said with a laugh.

For Hardeman, the comraderies still stood out to her more than 60 years later.

“People that had both good and bad experiences here have real kindred to the place,” Hardeman said.

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