Permit problem halts plan to move Historic Lowcountry schoolhouse

VIDEO: Permit problem halts plan to move Historic Lowcountry schoolhouse

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Plans to move a historic schoolhouse in Mount Pleasant to a new location Tuesday morning came to a halt because of a permitting issue.

The schoolhouse dates back to 1904, when it was first built to serve the African American Community during segregation.

Project leader and former President of the Snowden Community Civic Association, Freddie Jenkins, was upset about the change in plans.

“It’s a slap in the face to Snowden residents, it’s a slap in the face to Mount Pleasant and it’s a slap in the face to the African American Settlement Community,” Jenkins said.

He says while he was in office, the board decided to relocate the school next to the Snowden community center with plans to eventually turn it into a cultural education center.

The schoolhouse was being moved because there are already development plans for the property where it currently sits.

Current president of the Snowden Community Civic Association, Merrielee Waters, along with the treasurer agree that it should be preserved, but disagree with Jenkins on where it should be placed.

“Yes it could be a good idea, but the way it was presented and the way it’s done it is not,” Waters said.

They want more people to have input in the schoolhouse’s future.

“We’re a closed in community, it [the proposed location] is smack dab where people live," Waters said. "The infrastructure, the roads, money issues, the cost to renovate the needs that we currently have that go way beyond that, basically just the overall handling of the situation has made something that seems great on the surface really on the inside became a festering sore.”

Jenkins says about $40,000 was collected starting in 2018 for the ‘historic move." He says he doesn’t know if he’ll get any of that donation money back since the crews were in place and ready for the move to begin. That included a moving crew in addition to multiple utility companies that were in place to lift utility pole cables so the school could travel on streets.

While the goal is still to restore it, it’s unknown when or if that will happen.

Charleston County officials say the leaders of the project still needed a permit from Zoning and Planning for its new location which includes a site plan review, plus approval from property owners of new site. The moving company also needed a permit from Building Services to move the school house.

The school was one of the first African American Schools and served the African American community through the civil rights movement. Some students still live in Charleston, and they, along with the African American Settlement Community Historic Commission and people in the Snowden community say they have worked diligently to assure the school’s remains are maintained.

The African-American Settlement Community Historic Commission assisted with the fundraising efforts and raised awareness for the project.

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