From staff reports
Beloved southern storyteller Pat Conroy (1945-2016) – best known as the author of The Water Is Wide, The Great Santini, The Lords of Discipline, and The Prince of Tides – is as synonymous with the Lowcountry as pluff mud. And five years after his death, the Beaufort literary center bearing his name is entering a new chapter.
The nonprofit Pat Conroy Literary Center was established by Conroy’s family and friends in 2016 following the author’s death from pancreatic cancer. The Center continues Conroy’s legacy as educator and storyteller through an interpretive center and a robust calendar of in-person and virtual educational events to the benefit of writers, readers, teachers, and students in and well beyond the lowcountry.
On the basis of the remarkable experiences of its thousands of annual visitors and the quality of its top-notch educational programs, the Conroy Center has quickly grown into a must-see destination of the lowcountry.
The Center is Tripadvisor’s top-rated attraction in Beaufort, South Carolina’s only affiliate of the American Writers Museum, second American Library Association Literary Landmark, and winner of the 2019 Civitas Award for Tourism Leadership.
Now the Conroy Center begins a new chapter with the purchase and renovation of its permanent home at 601 Bladen Street, the former Svalina Law Firm building, open for public tours Thursday through Sunday, noon to 4 p.m., and other times by appointment.
The Conroy Center has come home, like Conroy himself, whose USMC family had moved 23 times before arriving in Beaufort in 1961, when Pat was 16 and first fell in love with the historic seaside town he would adopt as his hometown and muse.
With its waterfront views, free parking, and welcoming red doors, the Center’s new building houses a three-room main gallery filled with curated artifacts from Conroy’s writing and teaching life — including his Fripp Island writing desk, his father’s flight jacket, and examples of the author’s handwritten manuscripts and correspondence.
Visitors are guided through the exhibition by an extraordinary corps of volunteer docents, many of whom knew the author personally and are able to share their own stories as part of the tour experience.
The Center also has a gift shop, featuring books by and about Conroy as well as by a selection of local writers, guest instructors, and Conroy Center volunteers.
The new location also has rooms named in honor of writers Cassandra King Conroy and Anne Rivers Siddons, and an education room that will serve as a hub for the Center’s many programs benefiting readers and writers alike — including critique groups, writers workshops, book club discussions, and visiting writers programs.
The Conroy Center’s new location at the corner of Bladen and King Streets also comes with quite a scenic view of the Beaufort River and a section of Bay Street which Conroy immortalized as the Street of Tides in his novel The Prince of Tides.
Admission to the nonprofit Conroy Center is free, but donations are always welcome. The purchase and renovation of the building was made possibility by the gracious generosity of many donors, and gifts in support of the Center’s new home are most welcome through the Center’s website, by mail, or in person.
To learn more about the Pat Conroy Literary Center’s year-round educational mission, calendar of upcoming programs, and opportunities to donate in support, please visit online at www.patconroyliterarycenter.org or in person at 601 Bladen Street in historic Beaufort.