FOLLY BEACH — Those unfamiliar with the history of this island might view the abandoned wooden building at Folly and Sol Legare roads as something that probably should be torn down before it falls down.
But others see it as an important relic, a bit of Folly's soul that dates to its earliest days, before it was divided into lots, before the waves of tourists, before all the condos.
The ramshackle two-story building began its life sometime in the 1920s as a toll house — a place where motorists paid a fee to traverse the privately-owned causeway leading to the beach.
The toll house closed sometime during — or not long after —World War II, and the state soon built a bridge that dramatically improved the drive between the "Edge of America" and the rest of America.
Since then, the building has served as home for a series of bars, restaurants, a surf shop — even an art gallery.
It's unclear how much of the original building survives in some form.
Folly Beach building official Tom Hall, who is working to save it, points
to its bead-board ceilings built with 4 1/4-inch-wide boards as evidence of 1920s-era construction. He concedes it has been added to — and possibly subtracted from — many times over its long life.
The building not only began life as a toll booth but also was a grocery store that served Folly residents and those in the rural Sol Legare community.
"It was the only thing within 10 miles," says Susan Breslin, a Folly resident who is working with Hall to save the building.
The building's history remains murky because of a lack of good records. The best photo that supporters can find of the old toll booth is a grainy copy showing a port cochere with the words "Chas County Folly Roadway" on it. That port cochere is long gone, but the window and chimney to the right might still survive: The existing building has those features in roughly the same proportions and locations.
Breslin says the building could be moved to a site at Folly and Bowens Island roads that the city thought it needed for a fire station but now does not.
She also says the building, once fixed up, could be used as a small museum to display city artifacts, plus many of the Union army artifacts left from its occupation of Folly during the Civil War.
Others, including Folly Mayor Carl Beckmann, are supportive of the idea, but they note that several obstacles remain — the chief one being money.
The building would need some stabilization before a move, largely because it was vandalized after a recent closing party. The move is complicated because the city's site isn't ready, so the building would have to be parked somewhere for some amount of time. And if moved there, it might have to be put on high pilings to comply with federal flood laws.
"I just don't have $500,000 laying around to do all that," Beckmann says. "I don't even have $100,000 laying around. Maybe somebody will come forward at Christmas with all the answers."
Breslin is optimistic that Folly residents will rally for a good cause. And she takes hope from the old, deteriorated Anchor Line Restaurant less than a mile away along Folly Road.
That building has been handsomely repaired and is set to reopen next year. Supporters hope it's just the first modest landmark resurrected along the highway.
"I think the question is: Are we going to let everything fall to the ground?" Hall says. "And the answer is no, not as long as we've got breath."