November 01, 2018
Help Save the Hutchinson House
The Edisto Island Open Land Trust (EIOLT) has purchased a very important property on the island that includes 9 acres surrounding an important historic house that was at risk of being lost forever. The property is now protected from any future threat of being developed into a high-density multi-home tract, and the Hutchinson House, which still stands on the site and is one of the oldest intact freedman’s house on Edisto, will be saved. EIOLT’s acquisition ensures the dilapidated home does not crumble to the ground or become demolished by another landowner unaware of the historical significance of the house.
Hutchinson House Overview
The Hutchinson House, constructed around 1885, is one of the oldest surviving houses built by African Americans during the Reconstruction Era on Edisto Island. In a time when many freed people struggled to thrive economically, the Hutchinsons prospered as farmers who operated one of the African American-owned cotton gins on the island. James Hutchinson was born into slavery and escaped bondage in 1863 during the Civil War. He became a leader of the local freedmen community during Reconstruction. In 1875, he purchased Shell House Plantation as part of a land cooperative with other shareholders. His son, Henry, also born into slavery, inherited a portion of his father’s property when his father died in 1885. That same year, Henry Hutchinson married Rosa Swinton and reportedly built the Hutchinson House on that land soon after.
The Hutchinson House is a rare intact example of vernacular domestic architecture built by African Americans during the Reconstruction Era. The scale and ornament of the house reflect the Hutchinson’s prosperity, and its wrap-around porch and decorative elements mark it as much more refined than other houses constructed by African Americans at that time. Builders used a combination of recycled and new materials to construct the house, installing decorative salvaged wooden elements on the interior. Descendants of the Hutchinson family occupied the house until the 1980s. In 2016, they sold the house to the Edisto Island Open Land Trust (EIOLT). The EIOLT is in the process of stabilizing and restoring the Hutchinson House and will ultimately open it to the public and provide a place for the community to gather together for programs and events.
The Hutchinson House was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987, and remained in the family until 2016, when it was purchased by Edisto Island Open Land Trust. Unfortunately, the house is currently in a general condition of dilapidation.
The land trust has begun taking measures to stabilize the structure while a thorough assessment of the grounds and the home is being conducted. EIOLT has been working and collaborating with several important resources on the island, including the Edisto Island Historic Preservation Society and many wonderful community volunteers. The land trust has also worked with the American College of the Building Arts (ACBA).