The Barrow County Historical Society held its fall membership dinner inside the Perry-Rainey Center in Auburn on Oct. 21.
The historic 1902 structure, which was originally envisioned as a girls’ dormitory for Perry-Rainey Institute, has been restored and repurposed into an events center by the City of Auburn.
Auburn city administrator Alex Mitchem was the featured speaker and he shared information about the building, what has been and is being discovered about the structure and about the company, R&R Manufacturing, which completed the building into a sewing plant which employed many in the area through the years.
Mitchem said the Perry-Rainey Institute operated for 22 years and “connects Auburn to its strong educational foundation.” Auburn was ahead of its time in bringing higher education to the area with Mulberry High School, Perry-Rainey College (named for two of the leaders in the Mulberry Association of Baptist churches which built a school in 1892-93), Perry-Rainey Institute and Southeastern Christian College.
The Perry-Rainey Center officially opened in August. Auburn mayor Linda Blechinger had led the Auburn City Council in the restoration project and Mitchem, with support from state Rep. Terry England whose mother worked at R&R Manufacturing when it was located in the Perry-Rainey Center building, oversaw the successful effort. Mitchem shared that Rep. England was able to walk to the work station used by his mother during a visit when the markings were still on the wooden floors which have been sanded and beautifully restored. Work remains related to the parking lot and exterior landscaping.
The Perry-Rainey Center is available for rental. A bridal company and a team of artists are also in the space along with adult education classes through Lanier Technical College.
Carolyn Settle, a historical society member and Jug Tavern Quilters members, presented a yo-yo bed cover for a four-poster bed crafted to raise tuition money for a Perry-Rainey Institute student. Donated to the Barrow County Museum, Settle has desired to see it returned to Auburn. Now with the Auburn Museum being operated 1-4 p.m. on Thursdays, the public can visit and see the yo-yo topper and learn more about the Auburn area. Thelma Biddy, a historical society trustee who is active with the Auburn Museum, accepted the donation on behalf of the Auburn Museum.
Related to R&R Manufacturing, historical society trustee Beth Whitehead presented a pair of men’s dress pants gifted to her son, Clayton Whitehead, by Jean Withers of R&R Manufacturing on the occasion of Clayton’s 1981 graduation from Winder-Barrow High School. She said the pants were likely manufactured in the company’s later facility but she was confident Withers would have given pants made in Auburn. She also presented a book on the Withers family which she received from Angela Withers King as she was a friend and fellow church-goer of the Withers family. The book was written by Jean Withers and published by his family after his death.
The book was accepted by Mitchem and Michelle Walker, assistant to the Auburn mayor, council and administrator.