MINT HILL – The Historic Bain Restoration Committee was fighting an uphill battle when it formed five years ago.
The group sought to raise money to save the Bain Academy building from the wrecking ball. Millions of dollars would be needed, and the committee set out to raise any money they could through a series of small fundraisers.
Former Bain student and current Independence High School student Connor Fohr even held a bake sale to help with the cause when he was in the fifth grade. Fohr is still active with the committee.
But there will be no more bake sales as the Town of Mint Hill has stepped in to save Bain, which first served students in 1889. Last month, the Mint Hill Board of Commissioners unanimously voted to put a $3 million bond issue on the November general election ballot with the money going to restore old Bain Academy.
If voters approve the bond, plans call for the building to be turned into a cultural and civic center that will feature a renovated auditorium that could host theater productions, music and dance performances, lectures, civic meetings and art exhibits. There also could be several classrooms.
Bain was used as a school up until several years ago, and the building was eventually condemned. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools wanted to tear the building down but CMS held off as they knew residents wanted to preserve and renovate it.
Talk of saving Bain with an infusion of bond money started in 2017, but it was too close to last year’s municipal elections to put it on the ballot.
“This is the best chance for the building to be saved,” said Carol Timblin, Historic Bain Restoration Committee acting chairwoman. “They (the town) approached us last year and we had some meetings. It needs to have an organization that will be responsible for it, pay the taxes and maintain it. Our committee would have never been able to do that. This is the perfect solution.”
Timblin said she hopes the original features of the building can be preserved during the renovation process. The original structure was designed by noted architect Louis Asbury, who was the first North Carolina architect elected to the American Institute of Architects.
“I would like to see the history preserved,” Timblin said. “The architectural features inside need to be preserved as much as possible. The historic Matthews building where they have their theater is a lot like what we have at Bain.”
But getting the issue on the ballot is just the first step for Timblin and the committee. Timblin said the committee will campaign aggressively to get the bond approved.
“We are going to go full force,” she said. “We are working on a website, and we are making a video. We are going to put out ‘Yes signs’ all over town. We are going to go talk to the different schools in the voting district. We want to get parents to get out and vote.”
Tina Ross was the first chair of the committee to save Bain and she was on the board of commissioners when discussions began about putting the bond to a vote. Ross passed away before the official vote to put the issue on the ballot and Timblin said passing the bond would be a tribute to a person who loved Mint Hill.
“It will be a tribute to Tina and a tribute to John Bain, who gave everything he had back in 1889 to build that school,” Timblin said. “It would be a wonderful tribute to Tina, and she would be very proud and happy that it has come to pass. I hope we can do that for her and for John Bain.”
There will be a separate $15 million bond on the ballot in November that if approved would go toward improving parks and recreation facilities. Part of that money could go toward building a baseball complex that could seat several thousand fans.