South Carolina Department of Archives and History
National Register Properties in South Carolina

Penn Center Historic District, Beaufort County (St. Helena Island)
S1081770702001 S1081770702002 S1081770702003 S1081770702004 S1081770702005
Brick Church Frissell Hall Butler Building Lathers Hall Dining Hall
S1081770702006 S1081770702007 S1081770702008 S1081770702009 S1081770702010
Cope Building Pine Cottage Retreat House Darrah Hall Orchard Cottage
S1081770702011 S1081770702012 S1081770702013 S1081770702014 S1081770702015
Water Tank Hampton House Benezette House Arnett House Gantt House
S1081770702016 S1081770702017      
Jessemine Cottage Cedar Cottage

(Penn Normal and Industrial School; Penn School) Founded in 1862 as a school for freed slaves, Penn School established a commitment to black education, black welfare, and black heritage which has remained strong for over one hundred years. The school functioned as an educational institution, health clinic, farm bureau, and catalyst for community action, as well as a repository for preserving the island’s unique Gullah heritage and written history. The founders of Penn School were members of a group of northern missionaries and abolitionists who came to the South Carolina sea island following the Union takeover during the Civil War. Education was a top priority, and classes were held in cotton houses, cabins, and deserted plantation houses scattered over St. Helena. The only school of this type to survive was one established by Laura Towne of Philadelphia and her friend Ellen Murray. With the exception of the Brick Church, the approximately 17 buildings on the Penn campus were constructed during the twentieth century and have no architectural significance. The rectangular Brick Church, ca. 1855, is two stories with a gable roof, and is ornamented with symmetrically arranged windows, doors and brick pilasters. Brick Church was an early location of the first school for free blacks. The rest of the campus is made up of dormitories, administrative buildings, workshops, dining hall, tennis courts, staff housing and health clinics. Although the school was closed in 1948, the community service and cultural preservation functions originated by the school have flourished through Penn Community Services, Inc., organized in 1951. Listed in the National Register September 9, 1974; Designated a National Historic Landmark December 2, 1974.

View a map showing the boundaries of the Penn Center Historic District.

View the complete text of the nomination form for this National Register property.

Most National Register properties are privately owned and are not open to the public. The privacy of owners should be respected. Not all properties retain the same integrity as when originally documented and listed in the National Register due to changes and modifications over time.

Images and texts on these pages are intended for research or educational use. Please read our statement on use and reproduction for further information on how to obtain a photocopy or how to cite an item.

Images provided by the South Carolina Department of Archives and History.