Frank Lloyd Wright, considered by many the greatest U.S. architect of the 20th century, said, “The longer I live, the more beautiful life becomes. If you foolishly ignore beauty, you will soon find yourself without it. Your life will be impoverished. But if you invest in beauty, it will remain with you all the days of your life.”
Orangeburg has lost a man who invested in the beauty of his community. Look around you and you’ll find many examples of the work over decades of architect J. West Summers Jr., who died June 11.
Visit Edisto Memorial Gardens, for which Summers’ father played a leadership role in founding, and look outward to the Orangeburg Veterans Memorial Park.
The memorial features a 25-foot obelisk, six granite sections representing the branches of service and granite plaques identifying the wars in which the United States has been engaged.
The park also has nine flags representing the United States, South Carolina, the six branches of service and the POW/MIAs. Featured are six granite naming panels recognizing those individuals from Orangeburg County who died serving the country in times of war.
A West Summers vision.
Visit the Orangeburg Country Club, where a decade a decade ago the clubhouse and golf course underwent a major transformation.
The clubhouse was expanded to include a 760-square-foot pro shop and a 540-square-foot addition to the River Room, which includes an open-air kitchen design.
The Walnut Room was transformed into a reception area. Balconies were created for an overview into an expanded ballroom, and an outdoor terrace, with fireplace, was added in the club’s rear.
A West Summers vision.
Attend an Orangeburg City Council meeting and you’ll be sitting squarely in the middle of what was the Middleton Street fire station. It was transformed into a permanent home for meetings of City Council, which formerly were held in Stevenson Auditorium.
Summers called the building a “diamond in the rough.” His vision made it a beautiful facility with a new lease on life.
Nearby in downtown, what was once an old concrete jail and police facility behind Stevenson Auditorium is today the Public Works Complex and Downtown Orangeburg Revitalization Association office building.
And there are many more West Summers visions: Stevenson Auditorium renovations, Orangeburg County Courthouse renovations, Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School, the South State Bank building and the Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce building. He also designed many homes and he and wife Freda restored “The Big Yellow House” on Columbia Road where they have lived for decades.
He also did not “ignore beauty” in other aspects of his life. Among many roles, he was a member of the Church of the Redeemer, president of the Orangeburg Historical Society and a Rotarian.
West Summers “invested in beauty” and left his community a more beautiful place.