MOUNT PLEASANT — The narrow African-American school building at Long Point Road and Interstate 526 is a rare survivor of pre-integration schools here, but it might not survive much longer.
The old school sits on a 4-acre parcel that the Mazyck family has owned for a century, but the family has a contract to sell it to a company that plans to build a new health care building there.
Neither the family nor the company has a need for the historic building, which appears structurally sound but definitely needs work.
Claudia Mazyck said the building ceased serving as the Snowden community’s school when the new Jennie Moore Elementary opened nearby. Afterward, her grandmother lived there — and had some of its old school desks among her furniture — until she died in 1969. The family rented it out until 2000, when a small fire broke out inside.
“The bottom line is that it has to be moved within 60 days of us selling the property,” she said. “If somebody could get it and restore it, that would be fine.”
Former Town Councilwoman Thomasena Stokes-Marshall knows the school building well. She completed first grade there. She has been in touch with the town’s planning department and others to discuss ways to save it.
“I think it would be a loss in the sense that it’s been a part of the Snowden community for generations and generations,” she said. “I think a significant percentage of the older population here certainly attended that school.”
The town’s ordinances offer it no protection. Only buildings in its Old Village Historic District are reviewed when a demolition request is made. And the school building wasn’t included in the town’s most recent cultural resources survey, which was completed in 1988, said Town Planning Director Christiane Farrell.
Still, the town considered erecting a marker at the school almost a decade ago, but the plan didn’t move forward, she added. Research showed it was built in the late 1920s or early 1930s by the county.
The endangered school is not a Rosenwald School, a type of school built in the early 20th century through the generosity of Sears Roebuck magnate Julius Rosenwald. The National Trust for Historic Preservation has launched a nationwide campaign to draw attention to those schools in hopes of preserving them.
The Memcare Community has the property under contract for construction of a Memory Center, a facility that helps those with memory loss. The company did not respond to requests for comment.
The building is still the same size and shape as shown in a 1955 photograph. Its only addition was a small back porch. Inside, what appears to have been two classrooms have been divided into smaller living spaces, but its tin roof has kept it dry. And some of the original beams, tongue-in-groove paneling and flooring remain. Even the fire appears to have done little harm.
Mike Bedenbaugh of the Palmetto Trust for Historic Preservation said that statewide preservation group is interested in seeing if it could help. “The truth of the matter is these places are disappearing,” he said, “and it takes those who are most touched by them in the community to stand up and say, ‘This place matters to us.’ ”
Thousands of people pass by the building each day, and many probably don’t have a clue of its past, said Mike Allen of the National Park Service.
“These structures are hidden in plain sight,” he said. “What we may see today on the side of our roads in South Carolina played a vital link to the education of African-American kids in a very challenging time of Jim Crow segregation. These places were incubators for awareness, learning, opportunity and hope.”
Stokes-Marshall said moving the building about a mile away — to property where the Snowden Community Center sits — could be a solution, adding that it eventually could make a nice museum.
But if no one steps up with a plan to make that happen, then the old school will likely be salvaged for scrap wood — and a piece of Snowden’s past will disappear.
“Once it’s gone, it’s gone,” she said. “It’s like it never existed.”
Reach Robert Behre at 843-937-5771 or at twitter.com/RobertFBehre.