Sumter lawyers hope to preserve relic for posterity

By SAMMY WAY
Posted 8/5/18

Reflections recalls one of the more interesting variances occurring in Sumter's past. The principal characters were Sumter barristers, Chris Chokas, C.G. Rowland and the oldest building in Sumter's historic district. The building, which was to be …

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Sumter lawyers hope to preserve relic for posterity

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Reflections recalls one of the more interesting variances occurring in Sumter's past. The principal characters were Sumter barristers, Chris Chokas, C.G. Rowland and the oldest building in Sumter's historic district. The building, which was to be torn down and replaced by a modern restaurant, was more than a hundred years old and was once occupied by a number of distinguished lawyers. Information and photos used in preparing this article were obtained from The Sumter Item archives and the writings of Cassie Nicholes from Historical Sketches of Sumter County Vol. 1.

"Dr. James Haynsworth, born Oct. 31, 1784, was one of the earliest settlers in the town of Sumterville. His home was said to have been where the courthouse now stands. Law Range and the jail were on a part of his lot, and in a corner of his yard was his office (on the corner of Law Range and Main Street). After his death, the office was sold to lawyer William Haynsworth and Judge Fraser. The building was thought to be nearly 200 years old and regardless of it being made of wood and because of its historic importance the city allowed it to be located within the 'fire limits.' It was believed to have been constructed circa 1820-21 and was known by the Sumter citizenry as the 'old Haynsworth law office.'"

This structure served as the city's public library in 1909. Also, the building was occupied by a number of distinguished lawyers before being purchased by C.G. Rowland. The building was scheduled to be torn down to make way for what was to become the Manhattan Restaurant owned by Chris Chokas. "A movement was undertaken by the lawyers of Sumter to save this historic building and move it to the rear of the courthouse square. The cooperation of Mr. Rowland, owner of the building, was sought in this undertaking."

In February of 1936, a solution to the conundrum was reached. The building was purchased by George D. Shore and F. A. McLeod and then moved to a lot adjoining the jail property on Law Range which was purchased from Shepard K. Nash. Mr. Rowland was in agreement and stated that as soon as the building was moved to its new location, he would begin construction of the building which would eventually house the Manhattan Restaurant. The Haynsworth building still remains on Law Range; the building holds the distinction of being the oldest building in the historic downtown section of Sumter.