Henry Hutchinson House
Reconstruction Era history is preserved on. Edisto’s Henry Hutchinson House gets a facelift, and much more!
Edisto Island is rich in Lowcountry history. A visit to the museum or one of the historic churches will put you in touch with the many former inhabitants and how they lived their lives in this coastal paradise. Highway 174 is the island’s yellow brick road that leads to the beach, dividing the island in half, from stem to stern. A little over halfway, just before the Old Post Office Restaurant, sits Point of Pines Road. A left turn down this unassuming country road leads to the Henry Hutchinson House. Look carefully to the left after passing Clark Road. Standing proudly in a field of green, is a very important part of the storied past of Edisto Island and the Reconstruction Era.
In recent years, the house sat in dilapidation, as a photographer’s dream and a historic preservationist’s nightmare. The humble, but brightly painted green and red cottage has sat uninhabited for 40 years. In this time the forgotten framing, wooden siding and trim boards suffered heavily from the elements. overgrown landscape began to envelop the house in a cocoon of native foliage.
Built just two decades after the Civil War, the house and its builder play an especially important role in history. Henry Hutchinson was the son of a prosperous African American. His father James Hutchinson, along with other freedmen earned the nickname “Kings of Edisto.” He worked diligently while in bondage and later as a freedman to improve the conditions for blacks on the island. Born a slave in 1860, Henry went on to prosper as well. At the time of his marriage in 1885, Henry built this cottage as a wedding present for his bride. Just a stone’s throw away, he built and operated the island’s first freedman-owned cotton gin from 1900-1920. The infestation of the boll weevil would put an end to cotton production on the island. Today this house stands as the oldest identified freed-man’s cottage on Edisto Island. Henry lived here with his family until his death in 1940. Descendants occupied and maintained the house until about 1980. Since that time, the house has sat vacant.
The one and a half story cottage features three dormer windows and Victorian adornments. The rectangular house has a side gabled roof and is clad in weatherboard. Attention was paid to detail when building and decorating this house. Great pride went into the production of details that were dressed-to-impress. Hand-carved trim was applied above the first story porch and upper story roofline. Dormer windows were also crowned in fine Victorian style. When built, the residence was wrapped in porches that were later removed. The restoration hopes to replace the porch and restore the house to its original design. Listed on the National Register in 1987, the house and surrounding acreage is currently in the loving hands of the Edisto Open Land Trust.
Purchased in 2017, the Edisto Open Land Trust has worked diligently to put a plan in place to restore the house to its former glory. After acquisition, a massive canopy was placed over the remains to stop any further damage to the historically significant property. A large team of consultants and contractors have worked on behalf of the EOLT to stabilize the house. Upon inspection, the team realized the lightly framed house was compromised by rot and bugs. The exterior siding and interior paneling were basically holding the house together. Temporary stud walls were put in place to brace the 800 sq. ft. house while stabilization work was completed.
Today, the house has been stabilized. A new roof and siding have been added as well. The windows have been replaced with period glass, and the canopy has been removed. Future projects include replicating the three-sided porch and missing exterior Victorian details. Rear addition and interior restorations are also planned. The Trust hopes to include a public path around the historic property. Future endeavors aim to open the house as a museum by 2022.
Visitors are encouraged to see the work that has taken place. A parking area has been put in place with interpretive signs detailing the history of the house and its importance as a survivor of the Reconstruction Era when African Americans prospered in a new way. The house tells the story of the late 19th century Kings of Edisto and their success. The Henry Hutchinson House can be found at 7666 Point of Pines Road on Edisto Island.
Information gathered from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Charleston Post & Courier articles, and Edisto Open Land Trust Newsletter.