McLeod Plantation – James Island, South Carolina
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The plantation has had an especially important past serving as a hospital for the Confederacy, a camp for the famed 54th and 55th Massachusetts Volunteers, a burial ground for slaves and Union soldiers, and a headquarters office for the Freedmen’s Bureau. Until recently, it has also had a precarious future.
McLeod is unusual in that it lies in the heart of what is now a busy commercial district. The house, avenue of oaks, slave cabins, and lone remaining field are surrounded by a major highway, several fast food restaurants, a grocery store, and a multi-story medical complex.
The last living family member, William McLeod, died about 20 years ago. Having no heirs, he left his property to the Historic Charleston Foundation, hoping that this group would help preserve the plantation’s history and protect the land from development. In his will, he asked that the house remain a “single-family home” and that the foundation save “the Oak Avenues, and … provide that as much of the property as possible be restricted to single family residence or residences having the lowest possible density.”
Instead, the foundation decided to sell the property to the American College of Building Arts for use as a campus. The college, which was not financially stable despite receiving a large loan from the City of Charleston, eventually sold the plantation back to the Historic Charleston Foundation (a stipulation of the original sale).
The Historic Charleston Foundation then tried to sell McLeod Plantation to the College of Charleston, which planned to use the house for entertaining and the land for intramural sports. Strong opposition from Civil War historians, African-American historians, and the people of James Island led the college to forgo the purchase.
To the relief of the surrounding community, the plantation will be purchased by Charleston County Parks and Recreation later this month. The county plans to restore the site, which has fallen into disrepair, and open it for public use.
Beverly writes, “I grew up on James Island and many times as I passed this historical landmark, the word respite comes to mind – an interval of relief, or rest, as from pain, work, duty. The land is full of history with the earliest recordings in 1671.”
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