We have wonderful news to share!  The $275,000 fundraising goal to fully restore the remainder of the Hutchinson House has been met!  One hundred and fifteen (115) donors came forward to help us reach our challenge match last winter, which got us up to $75,000.  That was a huge accomplishment, but then something even more amazing happened.  We received an anonymous $200,000 donation from an individual who wanted to ensure that we reached our total goal as soon as possible, in order to finish this amazing and important project.

This incredible support is humbling, justifying, and probably should have been anticipated, understanding the passion so many of you have to see this national treasure on Edisto come back to life.  We are truly grateful.  By pairing this $275,000 with the funding from the National Parks Service African American Civil Rights grant awarded to us last year, we have begun the process required to preserve, restore and replicate all aspects of the house as it stood the day Henry carried his bride Rosa over the threshold.

Our amazing team consisting of a Preservation Historian, Architectural Conservator, Structural Engineer, and Architectural firm are all working diligently with our staff and board to compile all the research, develop the preservation plan and complete the structural drawings this spring.   Then we will hand the information off to a preservation contractor to begin the work, as early as this summer.

The Hutchinson House continues to experience one triumph after another.  These recent donations are a stunning example of a shared vision and passion to see this heritage site come back to life for the betterment of everyone who will come in contact with it.

Stay tuned for more details and be sure to follow the progress in person or online at edisto.org.  Next up we will be establishing an endowment campaign to ensure funds will be available in perpetuity for annual maintenance and management.

We have been humbled to work with Guyton Ash and Artis Construction who helped get us to this stage in the restoration.

One of the only remaining Freedman’s Houses on Edisto Island, the Hutchinson House tells a powerful story of community and land ownership. We are working with descendants of the family who built the house and lived there for generations to preserve the building and bring the story to life. Watch this video for more details.

We have completed half of the work, and now have a goal to raise $275,000 to complete the project.

We have completed the stabilization, weatherization and first phase of exterior restoration. Phase two will include the interior restoration, replicating the three-sided porch and replacing the north room on the back of the house.

We received a $171,512 grant from the Department of Interior, National Park Service (NPS) funded through the Historic Preservation Fund and African American Civil Rights grant program but we still need your help! A donation to The Hutchinson House Restoration Project will support the work to safe guard the legacy of this property. 

Together, we will restore the home back to its original appearance and open the house and grounds to the public to share the story of how land ownership shaped so many lives on Edisto.

The Edisto Island Open Land Trust has received a $171,512 grant from the Department of Interior, National Park Service (NPS) funded through the Historic Preservation Fund and African American Civil Rights grant program, for the restoration of the interior of the Hutchinson House. 53 of these grants totaling $15,035,000 were awarded for projects across the United States. With these funds, organizations and agencies conserve significant U.S. cultural and historic resources, which illustrate, interpret, and are associated with the great events, ideas, and individuals that contribute to our nation’s history and culture.

“This competitive grant program is just one of the many ways the National Park Service is working to preserve and interpret the lesser-known facets of our nation’s shared history,” said NPS Deputy Director Shawn Benge. “From physical restoration projects to surveys, documentation, and education, this years’ grant funds will help many of our State, Tribal, local, and non-profit partners advance their preservation goals.”

The Hutchinson House represents one of the oldest houses on Edisto identified with the African American community after the Civil War.  In 1885, Henry Hutchinson married Rosa Swinton, and according to oral tradition, he built what is now known as the Hutchinson House as a wedding gift for her. He constructed the house with his half-brother Jack Miller and their uncle John Pearson Hutchinson, a self-taught architect who built Central Baptist Church in Charleston. Henry acquired the property the house is built on from his father, James “Jim” Hutchinson. 

Jim Hutchinson was born into slavery at Peter’s Point Plantation on Edisto Island. After serving in the Union Navy during the Civil War, Jim became a political activist. He served as the Republican precinct chairman on Edisto Island, facilitating the election of Black legislators and registering Black voters in large numbers. He perpetually advocated for the economic empowerment and fair treatment of African Americans while promoting Black land ownership. Jim thrust himself into civil rights activism during a very difficult transitional period in our history, and it may have cost him his life.  He was murdered on the Fourth of July, 1885, by a white man from Wadmalaw.  Many people at that time believed Jim was murdered because of his advocacy for Black equality.

The Hutchinson House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987, and today, stands as an important example of the strength and resilience of an African American family on Edisto Island. The house represents the high level of craftsmanship and design that African Americans were able to achieve in their own homes once out from under White suppression. After Henry and Rosa passed away, two more generations of the Hutchinson family lived in the house and the property remained under their ownership from 1875 to 2016. It is a testament to the Hutchinson family’s success and represents the perseverance of formerly enslaved people in the decades following the Civil War.

Once the restoration of the Hutchinson House is complete, it will be open to the public as a museum and heritage center. Funds are still being raised to complete the replication of the three-sided porches and rear room that was original to the house. To find out more about this important heritage project, you can visit the EIOLT website at www.edisto.org. For more information on this project please contact EIOLT at 843-869-9004.  For questions regarding the Historic Preservation Fund and African American Civil Rights grant program, or to comment on this or any other proposed Historic Preservation Fund grant project, please contact the State, Tribal, Local, Plans & Grants Division, National Park Service, at 202-354-2020 or stlpg@nps.gov.

The Edisto Island Open Land Trust was pleased to be the host site for this exciting evening on Thursday, August 5th from 6 PM – 8 PM, at the recently stabilized historic Hutchinson House property at 7666 Point of Pines Road on Edisto Island. The evening began with a libation ceremony and a ribbon cutting of the newly installed walking trail that meanders around the grounds of the property. 

Edisto Island Gullah/Geechee speakers and vendors:

  • Mrs. Theresa Hilliard, Gullah Storyteller
  • Mrs. Andrea Hazel, Gullah Artist
  • Mrs. Elaine Jackson Ford, Gullah Historian
  • Ms. Keya Meggett, Gullah Land Conservationist
  • Mrs. “MP” Meggett & Family, Gullah Chef

The mission of the Gullah/Geechee Nation is to preserve, protect, and promote our history, culture, language, and homeland and to institute and demand official recognition of the governance (minority) rights necessary to accomplish our mission to take care of our community through collective efforts which will provide a healthy environment, care for the well beings of each person, and economic empowerment.

The mission of The Edisto Island Open Land Trust is to preserve the rural quality of life on Edisto by protecting lands, waterways, scenic vistas, and heritage through conservation and education. Over 50% of Edisto Island has been protected through partnerships with local and national organizations and agencies.  These wildlife preserves, the educational nature programs, and the local landowners who take care of their conserved lands are all part of what makes Edisto…Edisto.

We’re happy to report that the National Trust for Historic Preservation has featured the Hutchinson House on the cover of their most recent Winter, 2021 issue of Preservation Magazine.

Greetings from the EIOLT Education Outreach Committee! We have another learning opportunity for your presented by one of our local experts in the field.

In our third episode of Conversations in the Field, Melinda Hare is joined by local biologist and EIOLT’s very own Land Protection Specialist, Tom Austin. Tom explains the importance of grassland ecosystems to agriculture and the environment here on Edisto Island and in the surrounding Lowcountry. Tom also shines a light on what EIOLT is doing to conserve the gorgeous wildflower meadows at the Hutchinson House.

We hope you enjoy this informative presentation on a topic seldom covered.


Over the past twelve months, the Hutchinson House Project has moved forward with many significant events. We have been awarded a number of grants, we have received a detailed condition report, we have a completed an archaeological survey of the site, we have added to the house historical documentation, we have moved forward with fundraising plans, and we
have just put out a bid package to contractors for completion of stabilization and weatherization of the structure.

To date, we have received three grants for a total of $105,000. The first was a SHPO (State Historic Preservation Office) grant for $15,000 for a condition and remediation report that was completed September 2019. The second was a Johanna Favrot Foundation grant for $5,000 to preserve, restore or build new windows for the entire house. The third grant was the large
AACHAF (African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund) for $85,000 to complete the stabilization, weatherization and safe access for the Hutchinson House structure. The last two grants are administered by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. On March 2nd we submitted a grant application to the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Historical Interiors Fund for $15,000 to develop a preservation plan, materials analysis and display plan for the house interior. The inside of Hutchinson House is in remarkably good condition and nearly the same as when the house was first built.

The ‘Existing Conditions and Recommendations Report’ was completed by Simons Young + Associates, 4SE Structural Engineers (John Moore) and Hillary King (Preservation Consultant). The report provides an assessment of the current conditions for all architectural elements of the structure, recommendations for restoration work and a preservation action plan to move ahead with the restoration along with a timeline and estimated costs. This same team has been hired to provide drawings, scope of work, and contractor qualification documents for requesting bids from experienced companies to complete the restoration work. The contract should be awarded in early May for a project start date of June 1. We have to have the project completed by December in order to receive all the grant dollars.

We have received an ‘Archaeological Survey and Interpretation of the Hutchinson House, Edisto Island’ from New South Associates. The principal investigator was Joe Joseph, PhD. A GPR (Ground Penetrating Radar) survey was completed in the near vicinity of the house and a Magnetic Gradiometer survey of the same general area was also completed. In addition, a Shovel Test of an extended area was completed which produced several interesting artifacts. In addition to locating building, garden and farmyard features, the survey may have located the site of the cotton gin that helped Henry Hutchinson prosper. The survey also discovered several
artifacts that indicate this site may have been “witness to continuous occupation” from possibly the end of the 17th century to early 18th century.

More history of the Hutchinson House and Hutchinson Family is being discovered. A title search was completed in February and we now have reasonable documentation that shows the Hutchinson House property was part of the 1,590 acres of the original land grant to Paul Grimball, the first property to be deeded by the Lords Proprietors in 1683 on Edisto Island. This fits with the findings of the archaeological report regarding the occupation of this part of Edisto Island.

Our documentation of the Hutchinson Family is also expanding. Greg Estevez, a Henry Hutchinson descendent, has provided several documents and photos that will be digitized, recorded and analyzed over the next few months.

Had a terrific year of fundraising for 2019 that will allow us to do the project that we have planned for 2020. The Team is being formed for the big push for the final restoration of the house and endowment to keep the house and grounds running after the restoration is complete. We are not sure what the final cost might be but we are looking at possibly $1.5 million to be raised in the next couple years, and this includes an endowment of 1 million. Ellie Tiller is our consultant and helping guide the strategy for the project. Currently we are working on mini feasibility studies and doing conversations with community members and major donors to determine how they feel about the HH project and what they would like to see happen in the future and if they are willing to participate and at what levels. We are building a story and a case around the project.

Last year the Hutchinson House site had Sea Island Cotton growing for the first time in over 90 years! EIOLT staff member Tom Austin, prepared a plot, acquired sea island cotton seed that originally came from cotton grown on Edisto Island, planted, tended, weeded and produced healthy plants that allowed the harvest of cotton fibers and seedstock. The plot will be
expanded this year and Tom hopes to improve the yield using seeds from the best plants.

The EIOLT Hutchinson House Committee is working hard to keep up with all the activity surrounding the project. Several Teams have been formed to keep track of all that is going on. We have a team for fundraising, one for tracking construction progress, one for finding, writing and tracking grants, a team for site maintenance and security, another for the sea island cotton project, and a team for finding, cataloging, and identifying artifacts, archaeological oversite all of which will be used to tell the history and story of the Hutchinson House and Family. Each team is led by a Committee member.

And that’s not all. We formed a dedicated Hurricane Team and Hurricane Plan to make every effort to keep the house safe in that event. We have been working with the College of Charleston to find a graduate student who wants to make a project of some aspect of the Hutchinson House. We are talking to the American College of Building Arts to use the House as
a learning resource. Our parking area with the information board has been visited by over 1100 cars since June 1, 2019. We enjoyed our first annual Campout with Fine Dining in October.

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)

Contributions to the Hutchinson House project can be made here


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