Historical Site: Penn Center

The natural beauty of our South Carolina landscape often combines with its rich history, the mature trees draped in moss providing a shaded backdrop for the stories that the buildings on the properties are trying to tell and today, we would like to discuss a place where nature and man have worked together creating a place of sublime beauty and worthy history. Penn Center, located on one of our neighboring islands, St. Helena Island, was the first school in the south built for formerly enslaved West Africans and as you walk through empty halls, the faint echoes of school bells and excited children can be heard if you listen hard enough. Spend a few hours exploring the past and return to the present with the understanding that all roads lead back to the beauty and comfort of Fripp Island Resort.  

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Located at 16 Penn Center Circle E 

There are conflicting dates as to when Penn Center was actually built, some sites say 1855, others claim it was 1862, but we think the latter is probably correct as there is no mention of it being used in any other way than as the first school in the south for the formerly enslaved. The Civil War was still in its infancy, but we think that the writing was already on the wall that changes needed to be made, and as freed slaves were permitted to buy former plantation land at lower prices, hospitals were built, and schools were opened as a way to reorganize society. Over 150 years ago, visitors may have seen school children seated on chairs under the oak trees that dot the landscape, learning the things they were never permitted to previously, and these sights were just the beginning of what made Penn Center different. 



Today this historic building is at the epicenter of the National Historic Landmark District, offering two of four historic sites that are an integral part of Reconstruction Era National Historical Park. Darrah Hall is the oldest surviving building on the property, simply built from wood and glass and serving as the headquarters for the Reconstruction Era National Historical Park, providing a peek into those turmoiled times, appearing to look much the same as it did all those years ago when local school children would line up outside, awaiting the opportunity to learn, something that had been forbidden to them their entire lives. The Welcome Center and Museum preserves the history of the people who lived in the area, telling the stories of not just the lessons learned here but of the people of the low country, the Gullah Geechee. Group Tours of the center can be scheduled at various times Monday through Saturday by calling (843) 838-7105 and reserving the slot that works best for you; the last tour starts at 1:15. 


Thoroughly Modern and Absolutely Comfortable 

History is fascinating, but the modern conveniences and comforts found in our Fripp Island Resort rentals will make you glad your feet are firmly planted in the 21st century! Reserve your favorite escape today!