Hilton Head Gullah Museum receives national preservation award

info@islandpacket.comOctober 26, 2012 

Volunteer work to save a piece of Gullah heritage on Hilton Head Island has received national recognition.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation will present its Preservation Honor Award to the Gullah Museum for preserving the "Little House" off Gumtree Road.

The museum is on land purchased by William Simmons, great-grandfather of museum founder and director Louise Cohen. Simmons purchased the property after he escaped from a plantation on Lady's Island during the Civil War. He became a Union soldier, enlisting in the 21st U.S. Colored Infantry. He eventually settled on Hilton Head in Mitchelville, the nation's first freed-slave village.

The house was built in 1930 for Simmons' grandson, Duey Simmons, whom Simmons raised. Cohen inherited the land from Duey Simmons' sister, Georgianna, who raised her.

It is one of 22 awards to be presented during the National Preservation Conference next week in Spokane, Wash.

The Remodeler's Council of Hilton Head Island will be a co-recipient of the award for donating labor, including masonry work on the chimney and the meticulous replacement of the wooden siding, according to the trust.

Special care was also given to matching the paint color to the original "haint," or haunted blue, a special color meant to ward off threatening spirits, according to Gullah beliefs.

The Gullah culture arose from slaves brought to South Carolina and Georgia from West and Central Africa to work the rice, cotton and indigo plantations. But real estate development, evolving job markets and population shifts forced many to leave their traditional family land.

"The preservation threats to the Little House are now in the past thanks to the dedicated efforts of the Gullah Museum," according to the news release.

Details: www.PreservationNation.org/awards.

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