As some of you may or may not know, as a final project in the fall of 2010, I wrote a multiple property nomination titled Faith Cabin Libraries in South Carolina. Originally, it was part of a Faith Cabin Libraries movement in the 1930s-1940s started by a white mill worker name Willie Lee Buffington. It was a community effort to provide libraries for African American communities in South Carolina. At the time, because of Jim Crow laws, the only libraries African Americans had access to were in Columbia, Charleston, and Greenville, the big metropolitan areas. But what about everyone else? Cue Buffington and his plan.
The process of researching the libraries was fairly straightforward. There was a surprising amount of information on the libraries but very little done in the way of locating them. Here is where I came in. After a series of calls and getting in touch with historians, librarians, professors, and others, I managed to locate 2 libraries. Not only that, they were still standing, in relatively good condition, and only 20 miles away from each other! Even in the 21st century, these little log cabins had endured.
Since there were two still standing, my project expanded from nominating one historic property to nominating two. This quickly took me outside of the parameters for my class project but what can I say, I was invested. And, by creating a multiple property nomination, it became an umbrella document for any libraries that may be discovered in the future. After all, about 20-some odd libraries were created in South Carolina. Perhaps there’s one out there that is just waiting to be discovered. The multiple property nomination helps to make the process easier should such a library is found.
I submitted my project and I got my final grade (an A!) and I was now setting my sights on getting a job. But, I couldn’t help but shake the feeling that I owed it to everyone – those who helped me along the way, the people I met who remembered using the libraries, and all those people who labored to have a library – that these libraries be remembered.
Prior to leaving for my Death Valley job in August of 2011, I finally submitted the nomination to the South Carolina State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO). The staff at SHPO was more than helpful in walking me through the process and staying in touch even though I was so far away. It really was a joint effort. And, because of the distance, they even presented my nomination in my stead at the State Review Board held in March of 2012. The nomination passed. The only revision suggested by the Review Board was to change the nomination from local to state-level significance.
From April 2012 to October 2012, the awesome SHPO staff worked to make my nomination perfect when they submitted it to the National Register for Historic Places, operated by the National Park Service. Anything could happen. The folks in Washington could either deny it or send it back to be fixed. And time was an important factor in particular for one of the libraries as its roof is deteriorating. Being listed on the National Register would give its current owners a chance to apply for federal and state funds to save it.
As of November 14, 2012, word got back from Washington. After tw0 long years, the libraries are officially listed. Score one for history! If I do nothing else worthwhile in my life, these libraries would be enough.
Say hello the newest additions to the National Register for Historic Places:
Faith Cabin Library in Anderson County
Faith Cabin Library in Oconee County