Frequently Asked Questions

What is Reconstruction Era National Historical Park?

The Reconstruction era began during the Civil War and lasted until the dawn of Jim Crow racial segregation in the 1890s. It remains one of the most complicated and poorly understood periods in American History. During Reconstruction, four million African Americans, newly freed from bondage, sought to integrate themselves into free society, into the educational, economic, and political life of the country. This began in November 1861 in Beaufort County, S.C., after Union forces won the Battle at Port Royal Sound and brought the ‘Lowcountry’ along the South Carolina coast under Union control. More than 10,000 slaves remained there when their owners fled the lucrative cotton and rice plantations. The then-Lincoln Administration decided to initiate the ‘Port Royal Experiment’ in Beaufort County to help the former slaves become self-sufficient.

The Reconstruction Era National Historical Park includes four sites in Beaufort County:

  • Darrah Hall and Brick Baptist Church, within Penn School National Historic Landmark District on St. Helena Island, that includes the site of one of the country’s first schools for freed slaves and a church built by slaves in 1855 and then turned over to the former slaves in 1862.

  • The Camp Saxton Site, on U.S. Navy property in Port Royal, where some of the first African Americans joined the U.S. Army, and the site where elaborate ceremonies were held on New Year’s Day 1863 to announce and celebrate the enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation.

  • The Old Beaufort Firehouse, an historic building located in the midst of historic downtown Beaufort within walking distance of dozens more historic Reconstruction properties. This location serves as the park's visitor center.

Are there fees?

There are no park admission fees to the visitor center, Brick Baptist Church, or Darrah Hall. Some activities and locations at the Penn Center, which is independently operated, may require an admission fee. Visit the Penn Center website for more information.

Where can I park?

Around the visitor center and throughout downtown Beaufort there is metered street parking. At the Penn School National Historical Landmark District, including Darrah Hall and the Brick Baptist Church, there is parking on gravel lots. Parking is available in front of Pinckney-Porter's Chapel to learn about Camp Saxton and at Fort Fredrick Heritage Preserve.

Where can buses unload and park?

In downtown Beaufort buses can only unload on Carteret Street by the Beaufort History Museum. Buses can unload and park at the Marina. For more information and to learn the city's requirements for buses please visit the City of Beaufort's tourism website. In Port Royal at Camp Saxton buses can park and unload at Pinckney Porter's Chapel. At the Penn Center buses can park in the designated bus parking behind Darrah Hall.

Last updated: May 7, 2024

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

706 Craven Street
Beaufort, SC 29902


(843) 962-0039

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