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Restoration of Historic Florence C. Benson School with Federal Grant

Historic school restoration progress.

Restoration of Historic Florence C. Benson School with Federal Grant

The prestigious University of South Carolina recently announced that it has secured a federal grant worth $4.25 million for the restoration and preservation of the historic Florence C. Benson Elementary School in Columbia, South Carolina. The grant, generously awarded by the National Park Service, signifies the importance of preserving civil rights history and sharing the significant narratives of the movement.

A Commitment to Restoration and Preservation

The grant, given through the Historic Preservation Fund’s African American Civil Rights initiative, will support extensive restoration work, including replacing the roof, restoring exterior envelope components, rectifying site drainage issues, and installing sprinkler and fire alarm systems. Additionally, it will also fund the renovation of restrooms to make them compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and the replacement of worn interior finishes.

The Historical Significance of Benson School

Benson Elementary School, formerly known as Wheeler Hill Elementary and also recognized as the Benson Building, holds significant historical importance. It was constructed between 1953 and 1955 in Wheeler Hill, a segregated African American neighborhood. The school’s establishment upheld the state government’s “separate but equal” education policies to sidestep racial integration. In 1978, the University of South Carolina took ownership of the school which had been closed three years earlier. In 2009, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Preserving Stories of African American Struggle

Benson School, along with 38 other projects in 16 states and the District of Columbia, will benefit from $23.4 million in grant funding from the NPS in 2024. The funds, aimed at preserving significant sites associated with African American civil rights, shine a spotlight on our nation’s history. “South Carolina has always been a focal point for our nation’s history, especially civil rights history. This funding will help continue immortalizing our state’s role in the powerful legacy of African American civil rights,” Congressman Jim Clyburn said.

Virtual Tours and Ongoing Efforts

The NPS has been a consistent sponsor of preservation work, providing the Center with $6.5 million over a series of grants to support the ongoing preservation of Booker T. Washington High School Auditorium, an equalization addition housed within the university’s premises. Both the Benson School and the high school auditorium are currently featured in virtual tours courtesy of a collaboration with South Carolina Educational Television.

Successful revitalization of these sites will ensure the continuation of the story of Black life and education in South Carolina during the Jim Crow era. It is a testament to the resilience and determination of the African American struggle for equality and the rich, historical legacy they have left behind.


Restoration of Historic Florence C. Benson School with Federal Grant

HERE Irmo
Author: HERE Irmo

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