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McLeod Plantation- "Fight is not over"


Carol S. Jacobsen
607 Wampler Drive
Charleston

Sir,

Partial interest in the McLeod Plantation was left to the Historic Charleston Foundation (HCF) in 1990. It, in turn, purchased full title to the property in 1993, "thus saving the plantation, the complex of antebellum outbuildings and archeological resources from future development." The preceding sentence is a direct quote from the HCF website, which goes on to wax poetic about the history and the house, the unique kitchen and dairy structures, the barn and the rarity of the still existing slave cabins. By accepting the Willie McLeod gift, the Historic Charleston Foundation accepted responsibility and stewardship of this magical historic site as "an opportunity to interpret the contributions and influences of the rural and agrarian South."

To many, McLeod is an emotional experience. People speak softly while visiting: history for South Carolinians, both black and white, runs strong and deep here.

Times change. In the four months since the proposed sale of McLeod to the School of the Building Arts (SOBA) became public knowledge, events have moved rapidly. There have been two hearings before the City Planning Commission who voted to put a school overlay zone on the property. On July 20, the City of Charleston Council approved this zoning. But the fight is not over. The Board of Zoning Appeals - Zoning will hear the case and see the site plan before it goes back to council. After that, the Board of Architectural Review and other boards will look at it.

What is this School of the Building Arts, now licensed to be the American College of the Building Arts? Its intention to train students in various skills, such as carpentry, stone work, wrought iron, etc., seems worthwhile. But as commendable and ambitious as it may be, the fact is that SOBA has no academic accreditation, no experience, no track record in restoring or preserving a property on a scale required for McLeod Plantation. SOBA seems to have considerable potential but, however great that potential, the McLeod Plantation is not a suitable project for an organization just trying its wings.

Concerned citizens all over James Island and the rest of Charleston County are working to overturn this injustice to our history. One group, called The Friends of McLeod, Inc., has joined together, incorporated, and filed for Internal Revenue Service status as a 501(c)(3) organization. We want to preserve the heart of the plantation where the buildings and field are, to restore the soul of the plantation with the cabins and cemetery, and dream to open the plantation, especially for school children to see these remnants of past times. According to a planning commissioner, everyone will "see what there was, how far we have come, and how far we still must go." The Friends of McLeod, Inc. will be advertising soon to ask you to join us. In the meantime, please sign our petitions, watch for public hearings and come to voice your opposition to the development.

James Island stands to lose its only surviving link to our great history. McLeod plantation has existed since the Seventeenth Century. It has survived wars, disasters and hard times. It would be a tragedy to lose it now.

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