Reconstruction Era National Monument is a new unit of the National Park System that includes places that illustrate nationally important stories of the Reconstruction Era in Beaufort County, South Carolina. On St. Helena Island, the monument includes Darrah Hall and the Brick Baptist Church, buildings within the Penn School National Historic Landmark District. In downtown Beaufort the monument includes the Old Beaufort Firehouse within the Beaufort National Historic Landmark District, and in Port Royal it includes historic Camp Saxton on U.S. Navy property. The National Park Service does not yet have visitor facilities or services in these locations.
St. Helena Island
Darrah Hall and Brick Baptist Church - Both of these buildings are part of the Penn School National Historic Landmark District. Northern missionaries established the Penn School in 1862 as one of the first schools founded to educate newly freed slaves. The school became a model to illustrate the development of African American educational institutions in the Reconstruction Era. Neither the Brick Baptist Church nor Darrah Hall is open to the public at this time, but you may tour the nearby Penn Center museum. Once repairs and restoration activities are complete, Darrah Hall would likely open to the public for visitor services.
Camp Saxton - The 1st South Carolina Volunteers, the first black regiment mustered into regular service in the United States Army during the Civil War, occupied this camp from early November 1862 to late January 1863. This camp was also the site of elaborate ceremonies held on New Year’s Day 1863, which formally announced and celebrated the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation freeing all slaves in states then “in rebellion” against the United States. Camp Saxton is located on land that was formerly the John Joyner Smith Plantation, and is now part of Naval Support Facility Beaufort in Port Royal. This site is not accessible to the public at this time.
Old Beaufort Firehouse (706 Craven Street) - This building is centrally located within the Beaufort National Historic Landmark District, a roughly 304 acre district in the City of Beaufort that includes many places and historic properties associated with the Reconstruction Era. The National Park Service plans to develop this building into a visitor facility, but it is currently not open to the public.
Visitors may learn about the Reconstruction Era at related sites:
Penn Center - Penn Center is a cultural and educational center located on St. Helena Island. It evolved from the Penn School, one of the first southern schools organized by northern missionaries for emancipated slaves. During the modern civil rights movement Penn School became a site where the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) conducted its Citizenship Education Program. During the 1960s, Penn Center hosted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the SCLC staff as they planned the March on Washington and the Poor People’s Campaign. For more information: Click Here
Beaufort History Museum - This museum gives visitors a chance to learn about the important role that Beaufort has played in American history. The Beaufort History Museum is located in the historic Arsenal, which was built in 1852. During Reconstruction it was home to militia units including African American troops. The Arsenal was the first voting station in Beaufort County during Reconstruction and was also used by the Freedman Bureau for storage and supplies for the formerly enslaved African Americans. The Beaufort History Museum is located at 713 Craven Street, Beaufort, SC 29902. For more information: Click Here
Mitchelville - Perhaps the first freedmen’s town established during the Civil War, Mitchelville was laid out by the Union army on nearby Hilton Head Island to accommodate freed slaves. The town had a population of about 1,500 in 1862. Civil War photographs and illustrations of the town show a wide variety of building types and activities. Parts of Mitchelville are preserved as a public park and interpreted for visitors. For more information: Click Here
Fort Howell - The Fort Howell site is an earthen fort constructed next to the Mitchelville settlement to protect freed slaves from recapture by Confederate troops. The fort was manned primarily by African American soldiers. Fort Howell was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2011 and today is a public park with interpretive signage (160 Beach City Rd, Hilton Head Island, SC 29926).
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Last updated: March 5, 2017