Two historic Lowcountry buildings and a statewide organization were awarded grants as part of a national program to preserve African American historic sites.
Charleston's Emanuel AME Church, the Hutchinson House on Edisto Island and the S.C. African American Heritage Foundation were selected for the awards by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
A total of $1.6 million is being distributed through the trust's African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, a program described as the "largest preservation campaign ever undertaken on behalf of African American history."
The funds were provided by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, a New York-based benefactor for the arts and humanities. The foundation is also among the biggest donors to Charleston's International African American Museum, which is likely to break ground this fall.
This year's grants were distributed between 22 different sites, spanning from Massachusetts to southern California.
Both Emanuel AME and the Hutchinson House will be using their funds toward the restoration of the historic buildings.
Emanuel AME is in "great need" of structural repairs, said Willi Glee, a member of the church's trustee board.
The Calhoun Street church is receiving $150,000 to be used toward the first phase of a comprehensive renovation project that will cost millions, Glee said. That early work will involve repairing the over-stressed and damaged trusses.
Termites have done serious damage to the more than 200-year-old structure, Glee said. In September 2017, the church was fumigated, but repairs still need to be done to the parts of the building the pests chewed up.
The Hutchinson House on Edisto will also be using its grant — a total of $85,000 — toward a step in a longer restoration process.
Notable as the oldest identified house on the sea island associated with the African American community after the Civil War, the Edisto Island Open Land Trust purchased the deteriorating building in 2017. Later that year, the group placed a large tent over it to protect it from the weather.
The announcement of this grant was "beautifully timed," said John Girault, the trust's executive director. A full plan for the next phase of restoration work is almost completed, he said.
That phase, which will involve permanently stabilizing and weatherizing the structure, will likely cost more than $100,000. The third phase, which will be a full restoration, will cost about three times as much.
Though a plan isn't set yet for how the property will be used once restoration is complete, Girault said it's likely the site will eventually be open to the public with the house as its centerpiece.
The trust also owns some of the surrounding land and plans to purchase more, he said.
The third Palmetto State grantee, the S.C. African American Heritage Foundation, is receiving $50,000 to develop a five year sustainability plan, said Jannie Harriot, a longtime leader in the organization which promotes the preservation of historic sites.
That will involve exploring new revenue sources for the group and developing strategies to attract new members, Harriot said.
The African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund launched last year with a goal of raising and gifting $25 million spread over multiple years. Combined with last year's grants, the Action Fund has supported 38 different sites with $2.6 million in funds.
The program's executive director, Brent Leggs, announced this year's award recipients at this month's Essence Festival in New Orleans. Leggs said this year's recipients "shine a light on once-lived stories and black culture."
Other 2019 grantees include the Emmett and Mamie Till Interpretive Center in Sumner, Miss., the Langston Hughes House in New York's Harlem neighborhood and the African Meeting House in Boston.