Press Releases

Phillips Community Committed to Its Preservation Amidst Threat of Highway 41 Widening Proposal

preservation-admin , February 8, 2021

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 8, 2021
Media Contact: Victoria Futrell | 216.544.0837 | vfutrell@preservationsociety.org

CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA – A grant has recently been awarded by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in support of nominating the Phillips Community to the National Register of Historic Places. Phillips is one of the last remaining intact, historic African-American settlement communities in the region and currently threatened by a Charleston County proposal to widen Highway 41 directly through the community.

“As one of the very few surviving historic African-American settlement communities east of the Cooper River in Charleston County, SC, the Phillips Community is a significant cultural landscape,” said Kristopher King, Executive Director of the Preservation Society of Charleston. “The area is rooted in Gullah traditions and values, and it is rich in culture and history. Today, many of the people living in the community are descendants of the original freedmen and live according to the same settlement patterns that their ancestors did.”

This National Trust Preservation Fund grant of $5,000, awarded to the Coastal Conservation League, Historic Charleston Foundation, and Preservation Society will support the partnership’s efforts to produce a National Register Historic District nomination for the Phillips Community. “Federal recognition will help with the efforts by the residents of Phillips to prevent the destruction of this historic African American settlement community from the proposed widening of Highway 41,” says Laura Cantral, Executive Director of the Coastal Conservation League.

Efforts are already underway to research and document the history and significance of the Phillips Community toward the completion of the nomination. The timing of this project is crucial, as the proposal to widen Highway 41 to five lanes through Phillips is expected to go before Charleston County Council for a vote early this year. Known as the “Alternative 1” plan, the road widening would destroy the physical, historic landscape of Phillips and reduce the quality of life, as well as a sense of community for residents.

“This National Register Historic District nomination is important to our community as a way to document and recognize the significance of Phillips as a historic African American settlement community as we fight to prevent the destruction of our homes and neighborhood against Charleston County’s proposed widening of Highway 41,” says Richard Habersham, President of the Phillips Community Association. “Most importantly, a successful historic district nomination for Phillips will also recognize the historic significance of traditional African American communities throughout the East Cooper area and the Lowcountry as a whole. It is our hope that other settlement communities will be able to follow Phillips and be properly recognized for their contributions to American history following the Civil War.”

Looking toward future benefits of a National Register designation, Winslow Hastie, President & CEO of Historic Charleston Foundation said: “Elevating the Phillips Community to the National Register of Historic Places not only celebrates its historic and cultural significance but requires any future infrastructure projects in the area using federal dollars to undergo extensive scrutiny to determine their effect on the Phillips Community before a decision is made and also gives the public a voice in protecting historic areas.”

The Coastal Conservation League, Historic Charleston Foundation, and Preservation Society of Charleston look forward to bringing heightened awareness to the importance of preserving this significant, historic settlement community through the National Register nomination process.