Port Royal Elementary School considered for National Register of Historic Places

emoody@beaufortgazette.comJuly 30, 2013 

Through the years, the Port Royal community has fended off proposals to close its 102-year-old elementary school. Now it's making headway on preserving it for years to come.

Town and school officials have learned that Port Royal Elementary School could be added to the National Register of Historic Places in the fall.

"Here's this big announcement and we're going to be in the record books forever," principal Chavon Browne said. "They're not going to be able to get rid of Port Royal Elementary."

In 2011, the Beaufort County school board considered closing the school as part of an attempt to make better use of empty space in some of its buildings. After vocal community support, the school was kept open. Shell Point Elementary, also in the town of Port Royal, was closed and its building leased to Riverview Charter School.

School, town and community representatives are working together on the nomination to the historic register. Town Councilman Joe Lee said a favorable decision by the S.C. State Historic Preservation Office is expected in November.

Last year, the town hired Eric Plaag of Boone, N.C., as a consultant, and he helped get Port Royal's Union Church on the national register.

The School Improvement Council made entry on the register one of its goals this year, Browne said, and the Historic Port Royal Foundation also joined the effort.

Plaag researched the school's architecture and its role in the community during a visit in January.

Renovations and additions over the years have drastically changed the building, making it ineligible for the register on the basis of its architecture. But it could be listed for its place in community history, Browne said.

The original two-story school was built in 1911. The first floor consisted of two classrooms, and the second had partitioned space, according to the nomination form. Additions were made in 1954 and 2002.

In 1910, the town sold four lots to the school district for $14. The school opened in 1912. The deed included a restriction, indicative of the time, that the land be used only for white students or its ownership would revert to the town. Black children studied in a farmhouse in town.

Beaufort County School District began desegregation in 1964 and Port Royal Elementary was one of the final six schools to be desegregated in 1965.

Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.

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