National monument celebration set for March 18

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The National Park Service and local partners will host a community celebration in Beaufort County marking the recent establishment of Reconstruction Era National Monument.  

The dedication event — organized by Beaufort County, Brick Baptist Church, the city of Beaufort, National Park Service, Penn Center, the town of Port Royal, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, and the U.S. Navy — will take place from 1-3 p.m. Saturday, March 18, at St. Helena Island’s Penn Center. 

The event is free and open to the public.

The Reconstruction Era National Monument was established as a unit of the National Park Service by Presidential Proclamation on Jan. 12 in recognition of the role Beaufort County played in shaping the historic period of Reconstruction. 

The national monument protects and interprets historic buildings and landscapes in three areas within Beaufort County, including the city of Beaufort, St. Helena Island and the Camp Saxton Site in Port Royal. Visitors can find information about local Reconstruction sites at the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center at 713 Craven St., Beaufort, or at Penn Center at 16 Penn Center Circle, St. Helena Island.

Stan Austin, National Park Service regional director, said, “We look forward to dedicating the new Reconstruction Era National Monument with our partners and the Beaufort County communities who were central to the park’s establishment. The park interprets a critical period in American history not fully understood and credited for its national significance.”

The Reconstruction Era National Monument is composed of historic buildings and landscapes located in three areas of Beaufort County:

• Darrah Hall and Brick Baptist Church within Penn School National Historic Landmark District on St. Helena Island, the site of one of the country’s first schools for freed slaves and a church built by slaves in 1855 and then turned over to the former slaves in 1862;

• The Camp Saxton Site, on U.S. Navy property in Port Royal, where some of the first African Americans joined the U.S. Army, and the site where elaborate ceremonies were held on New Year’s Day 1863 to announce and celebrate the enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation;

• The Old Beaufort Firehouse, an historic building located in the midst of historic downtown Beaufort within walking distance of dozens of other historic Reconstruction properties.

The Old Beaufort Firehouse, Darrah Hall and the Camp Saxton Site are not yet accessible to the public. Brick Baptist Church is privately owned and supports an active congregation.

As the National Park Service and community partners develop future opportunities to experience and learn about Reconstruction Era National Monument, information and updates will be posted on the park’s official website www.nps.gov/reer.