St. Helena’s Lands End Road

History abounds from start to finish. Take a day trip to visit the historic sites on this scenic island road.

St Helena Chapel of Ease
Tabby walls of St. Helena Chapel of Ease Ruins.

St. Helena is home to many beautiful roads. A turn onto Lands End Road puts you right in the heart of the Penn Center. This historically significant landmark is the site of the former Penn School, one of the first educational sites for formally enslaved individuals. Their website says it best, “Opened in 1862 the Penn School tutored freedmen out of slavery and into freedom. After the school closed in 1948, Penn became the first African American site in the state whose primary purpose was to safeguard the heritage of the Gullah Geechie community.

St Helena Penn School

Later, in the 1960’s, Penn Center took up the mantle of social justice by ushering in the Civil Rights Movement and serving as the only location in South Carolina where interracial groups, such as Dr. Martin L. King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Peace Corps could have safe sanctuary in an era of mandated segregation.

Penn Center continues to thrive as a national monument promoting historic preservation, as well as a catalyst for economic sustainability throughout the Sea Islands. Its far-reaching impact on local, national and international communities has been the greatest legacy of the Penn Center’s history.”

St Helena Penn School
Brick Church – Photo Credit: Bill Fitzpatrick

The oldest building on the site is the Brick Church. Built in 1855, Brick Church was an early location of the first school.

When visiting the Penn Center your first stop should be the Courtney P. Siceloff Welcome Center and Gift Shop in the York W. Bailey Museum. The museum is open Tuesday-Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

If you would like to read more about the historically significant Penn Center, the National Trust for Historic Preservation has a great article, or visit the PENN CENTER WEBSITE.

St Helena Chapel of Ease
St. Helena Chapel of Ease.

As you travel further down Lands End Road you will find the St. Helena Parish Chapel of Ease Ruins. This tabby house of worship was built in the mid-1700s for the plantation families that lived on the sea island. Because the island was occupied by Union troops during the Civil War, the plantation families abandoned their homes and the church was used by the abandoned slaves of the island. It was used by Northerners who came south to educate and train freemen. It was also used as a sanctuary by Methodist freemen as early as 1868. A forest fire destroyed the structure in 1886 and it was left in disrepair.

Fripp Tomb at St. Helena Chapel of Ease.

The church ruins are surrounded by ancient oaks, dripping in Spanish moss. It also has a cemetery, containing a tomb containing Fripp family members. This is a great spot to take pictures and reflect on the splendor of this historic site. The SC Picture Project has a great article about the chapel of ease ruins with many beautiful pictures.

St Helena Ft Fremont
Fort Fremont Historical Preserve

Standing sentry at the end of Lands End Road is the Fort Fremont Historical Park. Built in 1889, this fort was one of six fortifications designed to protect the coast during the Spanish American War. Long abandoned, the site now sits in beautiful ruins. Surrounded by live oaks, the fort looks out over Port Royal Sound with 900 feet of beach access.

St Helena Ft Fremont
One of the spots where a breech-loaded disappearing cannon was positioned.

Visible now are the recessed spots where disappearing cannons were positioned. Fort Fremont was officially deactivated in 1912 when the Port Royal Naval Station moved from Parris Island to Charleston. The property went into private hands for several years. While the hospital was transformed into a hunting and fishing lodge, the fort fell into disrepair. They were both listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 2004 the fort and 15 acres were purchased transform the ruins into a public park.

St Helena Ft Fremont
The ancient walls of Fort Fremont.

Visitors can roam through the preserve and view the fort from all angles. According to the Fort Fremont Historical Preserve, “Ft. Fremont serves as a historical remnant of military defense technology at the dawn of the 20th century as the U.S. became a major world power.”

St Helena Ft Fremont
Staircase leading to the top of the fort.

Fort Fremont is open for touring during daylight hours. You can also access and walk along the beach through the fort property. The full history of Fort Fremont can be found on their website.

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