It may look like a dilapidated old small home ready for the bulldozer at Edisto Island’s Point of Palms Plantation, but it’s actually a piece of valuable Sea Islands black and Gullah history. And this week it’s being dismantled and shipped to Washington, D.C.
The home represents what was once a slave cabin at the plantation. Once it’s completely dismantled by Friday, crews will transport the structure to Washington. It will then be rebuilt and opened in 2015 as the centerpiece of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African-American History and Culture.
Gretchen Smith is the director of the Edisto Island Historic Preservation Society. She says the old slave cabin is valuable because it’s so rare.
“I’ve got to tell you, I’ve cried a number of times these past few days,” she told South Carolina Radio Network, “It’s almost overwhelming what’s happening with this project. We’re thrilled, but also a little bit sad to see it go. But it’s going where it needs to be going.”
Museum officials said they wanted a structure from Point of Pines due to the site’s unique history. During the Civil War, the plantation was seized by the Union in 1861. Shortly afterwards, the African-Americans living there, along with other slaves from around the area who had escaped, declared themselves free.
Smith says it may surprise people to know that these slave cabins were not abandoned back in the 1800s. “There was continuously someone living in it until the 1980s,” she said.
Smith said the cabin’s dismantling should be completed by Thursday or Friday. Officials say that every board and nail will be carefully numbered and packaged for shipment. The next time it will be seen by the public will be in late 2015, when the new Smithsonian museum is expected to open on the northwest corner of the National Mall.
Smithsonian officials say the cabin will be the focal piece of the museum’s exhibition “Slavery and Freedom,” which examines slavery’s role in shaping America and its lasting impact on African-Americans.
Sheree Bernardi of Charleston affiliate WTMA filed this report