This austere commercial building in downtown Chester was built sometime in the mid-nineteenth century prior to or at the onset of the Civil War. It likely bears the name of Dr. Abraham Davega, a pharmacist who served many prominent roles in Chester, including mayor in the years just after the Civil War. Davega was also president of the Chester and Lenoir Railroad; the rail line was destroyed by Union troops during the war.
The building is most notably associated with Mary Boykin Chesnut, whose Civil War diary was published as a book in 1905. Titled, A Diary from Dixie, the book remains popular today. An annotated version of the diary, titled, Mary Chesnut’s Civil War, was published in 1981 by historian C. Vann Woodward. It won the Pulitzer Prize for History in 1982.
Born near Stateburg in 1823 as Mary Boykin Miller, she was the daughter of Governor Stephen Miller, who served South Carolina in this role from 1828 through 1830. She later married James Chesnut, Jr. of Mulberry Plantation near Camden. James Chesnut, Jr. was elected to the United States Senate and served from 1858 until 1860. He was also elected to the Provisional Congress of the Confederate States of America, which met in Richmond, Virginia. It was from Richmond that Mary Chesnut fled during the occupation of the city by Federal troops. She is said to have stayed in the Davega Building briefly during her evacuation, composing part of her diary here. The Davega Building also served as a post office in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
The Davega Building is listed in the National Register as part of the Chester Historic District:
The focal point of the Chester Historic District is The Hill, a triangular-shaped plaza on an eminence at the center of the city, around which the original settlement grew, and which now includes the city hall and a relatively well-preserved collection of late nineteenth and early twentieth century commercial buildings. The district now also includes the remainder of the central business area, containing the county courthouse and the federal building, as well as most of the older residential areas of the city and the early churches that are within them. Of the 475 properties in the district, 324 are considered to contribute to its historical character. The city of Chester was formed in the late eighteenth century as Chesterville. However, most of the properties included in the district reflect the city’s history through the second half of the nineteenth and in the early twentieth centuries. As a result, the buildings display a wide variety of architectural styles reflective of stylistic trends during that time span, including Greek Revival, Gothic Revival, Victorian, Romanesque Revival, Queen Anne, Classical Revival, and Bungalow. In addition, the district reflects the city’s role as a commercial center for the surrounding county, and as its political and governmental hub.