For decades, the vacant and deteriorating schoolhouse along Mount Pleasant’s Long Point Road has faced an uncertain future despite its historic significance as the town’s last remaining African American school building from the separate and unequal Jim Crow era.
Earlier this year, its preservation seemed likely as the two-room structure was hoisted onto a trailer for a planned move to the nearby Snowden community. Unfortunately, that plan fell through amid issues with permits and the owners of its proposed new site.
There’s new hope, however, and it stems from a Jan. 24 letter to the editor.
Robert Macdonald, a Mount Pleasant resident and director emeritus of the Museum of the City of New York, wrote the letter to suggest moving the historic school to the new campus of Lucy Garrett Beckham High School, which will open its doors this fall.
“For many today, the Jim Crow legacy is intangible,” Mr. Macdonald wrote. “However, a visible artifact can be seen in the Long Point Road School.”
Many agreed, and on Feb. 19, Mr. Macdonald, School Superintendent Gerrita Postlewait and local preservationists are scheduled to discuss the idea. We hope it goes well because the idea — if executed properly — makes a lot of sense.
By executed properly, we mean this: If the Charleston County School District is willing to step up and help provide a suitable site for the building, then the larger community must rally to help. Our public schools face enough challenges and financial strains without adding a costly historic preservation project, no matter how worthy or educational it might be.
It’s also to be determined if Beckham is the right school site. Some may prefer Belle Hall Elementary, which is both closer to the school’s original site and to the Snowden community.
If preservation groups are willing to commit to help defray the costs of its move, renovation and ongoing maintenance, then we see a lot of upsides.
The main upside is educational. The example of the modest school building will give Beckham and other students a tangible, real-life example of local education in early 20th century Charleston County, and of the unequal offerings. To the extent that succeeds, it also would serve as a lesson of the power of preservation and give Beckham’s new campus an added sense of character and place.
Had the Snowden move taken place, the plan there was to rehab the building for use as an education center for African American history. That’s still a worthy goal, and the juxtaposition between the old schoolhouse and today’s current school building would say a lot about how far we have come in providing educational opportunities to all students.
Mr. Macdonald notes the Long Point School might seem insignificant — and to many, it might look like yet another rundown shack ready for the bulldozer — but it is significant as a unique cultural resource. “Once lost they can’t be recovered,” he said.
That’s a lesson worth keeping in mind.