Robert Smalls is a important figure in area, regional and national record. His story — a when-enslaved ship pilot who daringly freed himself and his family from Charleston Harbor all through the Civil War and later became a notable South Carolina political figure — needs wider understanding and appreciation. There are a number of approaches to obtain this, but opening his former home to every day going for walks excursions isn’t the respond to alternatively, it’s a issue.
Mainly because our attempts to achieve consensus with the new house owners have unsuccessful, those of us with the Historic Beaufort Basis have questioned the point out circuit court docket to critique the easement and our interpretation of its demands.
The new house owners, Billy and Paul Keyserling, hope to transform the non-public residence into an interpretive middle and already are acquiring daily strolling tours of the house at 511 Prince St. That form of overuse will accelerate the deterioration of the residence and grounds. It’s also a violation of the easement that the home’s former homeowners donated to the Historic Beaufort Basis 20 years back.
The easement retains both equally the foundation and all potential proprietors to the terms of the legally binding agreement. The use of the house was limited by the words “only a non-public home.” When the principal reason of the document is to be certain the home and grounds are preserved and secured, it also makes it possible for general public entry in a confined vogue to stop deterioration of this essential home.
The Keyserlings never concur with our interpretation of the easement. Their said objective is to transfer the historic residence to the federal government so that it can be operate for daily excursions, which previously are taking place.
While the proprietors claim they have the ideal to function excursions because it is non-public property, Billy Keyserling has been a actual estate agent for many years and understands easements. He also not too long ago served as Beaufort’s mayor and is aware whole nicely both the worries dealing with our historic district and the city’s zoning necessities.
To people who argue the Historic Beaufort Basis is hypocritical in opposing an “interpretive center” for the general public at the McKee-Smalls Property though we function the John Mark Verdier Dwelling museum on Bay Street, think about their diverse histories — and diverse places.
We object to the Keyserlings violating the easement need of residential use in a household region of the Beaufort Nationwide Historic Landmark District. In distinction, the John Mark Verdier Household is in the coronary heart of the city’s central company district. From 1861 ahead, the dwelling has not been applied as a non-public residence: It was utilised commercially for 3-quarters of a century and condemned in the 1940s, when a team of concerned citizens banded alongside one another to conserve the architecturally significant Federal Time period house from demolition. This effort successfully launched the contemporary preservation motion in Beaufort.
The ongoing tours of the McKee-Smalls House violate the easement and threaten to erode the exceptional qualities of this safeguarded neighborhood, one no cost from commercialization and large-scale tourism. Citizens of the Stage acquired their residences with the assurance and expectation that their historic community was guarded by zoning.
Our do the job at the basis is guided by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior’s Benchmarks, which are the primary principles for keeping the integrity and significance of historic structures. The 1st of the 10 criteria states that buildings really should be used for their original reason as significantly as feasible — in this circumstance, a personal dwelling.
From the starting, we have been willing to function with the Keyserlings, the Nationwide Park Company and the Nationwide Rely on to appear to an arrangement, inside the phrases of the easement, one particular that would equally protect the dwelling and home though supporting realistic community entry. We continue to be hopeful that a resolution can be reached.
In the meantime, the Historic Beaufort Basis carries on its mission to protect, defend and current web pages and artifacts of historic, architectural and cultural desire all over Beaufort County.
Cynthia Jenkins is government director of Historic Beaufort Basis and received the 2021 Governor’s Award for Excellence in Preservation, South Carolina’s maximum honor recognizing an individual’s endeavours in aid of historic preservation.