Field Notes: R. Grant Gilmore III and students document segregation era African American schoolhouse

15 Aug 2018 1:20 AM | Christine R Henry (Administrator)

In May 2018, Pat Sullivan, a local advocate for Gullah Geechee culture, indicated to Grant Gilmore that the Snowden Community (an un-incorporated entity bordering Mt Pleasant, South Carolina) located along Long Point Road was concerned with saving a school house located there.  They were planning to move the building as a developer had purchased the property.

The researcher offered to assist by visiting the site and determining whether College of Charleston Historic Preservation and Community Planning students working with a Graduate Assistant from the joint College of Charleston/Clemson Graduate Program in Historic Preservation could document the building.  Grant Gilmore subsequently visited the site on 15 May 2018 and determined that a joint undergraduate and graduate student team could competently complete initial recording work in a reasonable time.  The recording documentation began on 17 May 2018.  Digitization of these drawings in CAD and Sketchup is ongoing at the time of this writing. A draft Sketchup rendering is included here.

Site Overview

The structure is located approximately 600 ft ENE of the intersection of Long Point Road (State Road S-10-97) and Interstate 526 on the north side.  It is located approximately 600 ft WSW of a Waffle House (at 609 Long Point Road.  The site is currently forested with trees approximately 20-30 years old.  The site is accessed via a small paved single lane road that runs from the site to the NW towards Seacoast Parkway.  It is part of a 3.17 acre parcel that appears to have gone into foreclosure in October 2017.  The area to the NE of the schoolhouse structure is relatively clear while the other three sides are shaded by extensive mature trees.  The site is level and the soil is a sandy-loam typical for the area.  There is a chain-link fence between the site and Long Point Road.  To the east is a manufactured home that is also slated to be moved from the site.  Vegetation was kindly cleared from around the building by Snowden Community volunteers prior to the commencement of documentation activities.

Building Overview

The wooden building is approximately 60 feet (18.2 meters) in total length and 21 feet (6.4 meters) in total width.  It currently consists of two separate apartments that have not been occupied for some time. These apartments were converted from a two-room school house sometime after 1954 when the school was abandoned after construction of nearby Jennie Moore Elementary in 1953.  The following sections provide an initial physical description

Exterior Treatment

The exterior is currently covered in pressure-treated T1-11 siding, a textured, vertically grooved plywood commonly used in less expensive building applications since the late 1960s. The T1-11 is applied over wood clapboard siding that covers the wood framed structure along both sides of the building. The porch ends are not covered in T1-11.


The roofing material is zinc coated steel formed into sheet roofing panels.  In the case of this building it is a very common type known as “5V Crimp” that permits a sturdy overlap of panels and strong fastening to roof framing below.  The roof is in generally good condition and has been repaired on occasion in the past.  It is not painted.

Brick Piers and Chimney

The entire building is elevated on twenty-eight brick piers that are around 16 inches on each side.  There is a brick chimney stack visible from the outside at the center of the structure.  Both the piers and the chimney feature “running bond” brick courses.  The piers are one brick wide while the chimney stack is three bricks wide.  The bricks are the common American size of 7 5⁄8 × 3 5⁄8 × 2 1⁄4 inches (194 × 92 × 57 mm). 


There are porches at either end of the structure which lead to doorways that pierce the center of each end. Concrete steps lead up to the porch on the end facing Long Point Road while wooden stairs lead into the porch at the opposite end.  At this, the northern end, the porch has been partially enclosed to form a storage shed currently containing typical household storage items including bicycles.


The twelve window openings are currently covered by non-pressure-treated ½ inch plywood nailed into the window frames.  This was likely done at some point relatively recently as hurricane protection.  The wood window sash were originally six-over-six or six lights (or panes) over six panes.  These appear to be original to the school house.


The interior space has been modified over time, however, the observable evidence indicates that much of the original structure remains intact.

Through the documentation process it has been determined that there were at least four significant phases in the structure’s life thus far.  Each of these phases and supporting evidence will be described in the following sections.

Four Construction Phases

The first construction phase is reflected in a virtually intact framing system for a one room structure elevated on brick piers.  The frame is painted white.  The exterior was sheathed in white-painted clapboards that were 10 inches in width and covered all sides of the building. At least two fragments of this clapboard were re-incorporated in the roof structure of Phase II.  This initial room was 21 feet in width by 30 feet in length.  It was pierced by three windows on each long wall and a single door on the southern end.  During the course of recording an unidentified photo was shared by Robert MacDonald (Director emeritus of the City Museum of New York) along with a 1955 image of the Long Point Rd School.  Upon examination of the unidentified photo and the physical evidence, it can be said with great confidence that this is an image of Phase I of the Long Point Road Elementary School.

The structure described here was likely built during the first quarter of the 20th century according to the documentary records currently available.  Ongoing research with the Charleston County School District archives may provide some evidence of an earlier build date. A sawmill operated close by on Whipple Road that was started in and it may be that the lumber used in this structure was obtained from the mill.

At some point after the school was completed, likely in the 1930s or early 1940s the schoolhouse was doubled in size indicating a second phase in its construction history.  A room identical in size was added what would have been the rear of the structure.  The framing of this extension was not visible during the research period as it is completed obscured by later modifications.  It is expected that after the schoolhouse is moved in coming months that a more thorough investigation of this phase may be undertaken.

Modifications of the original building were extensive at this point.  It is clear that the majority of clapboards were replaced as well as the roofing system during Phase II.  Other modifications also include the installation of beadboard on both the ceiling and the walls.  Beadboard was popular in urban contexts beginning in the 1870s and continued to be used in rural areas through the 1930s and thus is not unusual to find it on this structure.  The beadboard was removed in the Phase I area after a fire sometime in the 1990s as can be seen below.  A porch was added to the front during this phase and the original brick steps were moved to accommodate this addition. 

Two additional phases were identified associated with two domestic occupations in the 1960s and 1990s.  These will be detailed in the final report.

The historical significance of this structure for the history of education not only in the region but nationally cannot be overestimated.  It is a virtually intact artifact of one of the most pivotal periods in United States history.  It is a physical manifestation of the challenges faced by formerly unfree African Americans as they sought to improve their lives through education.  It is also illustrative of the facilities provided by the State of South Carolina for African American education.  The transition to the Jennie Moore School from the Long Point Elementary School is illustrative of the long struggle toward equal rights for African Americans in a political, social and economic environment that sought to restrict these rights at every turn through every means available.  The building itself tells these truths and should be conserved and preserved as a precious reminder of this very dark period in American history.  Every nail, every brick, every paint stroke is a historical marker for future generations to learn about where we as a nation have been and how far we still need to move to heal racial and social injustices.  There are no other similar educational buildings East of the Cooper.  This is the very last one.

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