Sandy Island Cultural Initiative works to revive historic school, national historic landmark

Updated: Jun. 19, 2019 at 7:48 PM EDT
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MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - The Sandy Island Cultural Initiative (SICI) met with the public Wednesday to discuss the preservation of the Sandy Island School.

A collaboration among the Sandy Island community, Coastal Carolina University and Brookgreen Gardens, SICI was awarded a National Park Service Civil Rights Grant of $104,000 to document and begin preservation on the Sandy Island School.

Alli Crandell, a member of the SICI and staff at Coastal Carolina University, said the grant helps them document the structural sound of the building, and begins the rehabilitation process so they can decide the priorities of what repairs are most important to the community and the uses for the future of the building.

The building sits in the heart of the island.

“It has a wonderful long history just like the island community itself,” said Crandell.

Several residents were at the meeting Wednesday afternoon to give input and feedback to what happens next to building, and how they can preserve it and make use of it for the future generations.

Residents said not many people live on the island, that’s why its history is so important to South Carolina and the nation.

The school was built in 1932 by Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington for the education of Sandy Island residents through the eighth grade. The school closed in 1964, but the building has remained an important community center, managed by both the community and Georgetown County. Preservation and documentation work is being conducted by the Cummings & McCrady architectural firm out of Charleston.

The SICI project team, comprised of Charles Pyatt of Sandy Island, Robin Salmon of Brookgreen Gardens and Eric Crawford, David Palmer and Alli Crandell of Coastal Carolina University, said the building is in good condition but needs a lot of repairs.

The timeline for the project calls to complete the application process to have the school house deemed as a national historical site. They hope to have that done by fall of 2019.

Residents said they would like to see a community center -- or a library -- a place where families, children, and seniors can gather.

“Every time we do some thing now we have to do it at the church, and a community center would be a better place,” said Charles Pyatt, a long time Sandy Island Resident and member of SICI.

Rev. George J. Weathers, 81, who has lived on Sandy Island all his life, said he remembers when the school didn’t have a toilet.

“I’m glad Coastal came in and tried to lift the part that is so important to the community, education is very important to Sandy Island,” said Weathers.

The project team will hold a follow-up meeting at noon on Tuesday, July 2 at the Litchfield Education Center to gather additional feedback on future use of the center and renovation priorities. The team hopes to begin the renovation process in fall 2020.

This project is funded by the Historic Preservation Fund and administered by the National Park Service, Department of the Interior.

Crandell said she hopes once the school becomes a national historic site it will give them more opportunities to apply for more grants to complete the renovations, which is estimated to cost nearly $400,000. They also want to share the story of a rich history, to make everyone knows and understand Sandy Island.

“We want tell that story to a wider audience and making this building listed just a long side, courthouses, historic school buildings all across South Carolina so really putting it on the national level,” said Crandell.

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