St Simons Island takes pride in its history and every effort is taken to preserve its roots. The Cassina Garden Club is a prime leader in the preservation and restoration efforts of historical buildings. Since 1932, the group has overseen the upkeep and maintenance of two slave cabins.
Janis Rodriguez is the project manager of the restoration of the two Slave cabins and conducted our tour.
The cabins were originally part of the Hamilton Plantation, and were built by the plantation slaves in the mid-1800s. There were several cabins in a row, but only two remain.
The Garden Club received stewardship by the Glynn County Commissioners in 1932, and in 1950, they received the property deed. Because of the efforts by Cassina, the slave cabins were recorded within the National Registry of Historic Places back in 1988.
The campaign to restore the cabins began in 2015, with a projected price tag of $400,000. Through fundraisers and donations of a campaign titled ‘Cabin Fever-Save the Cabins’, restoration of the cabins became a reality.
During 2015 and 2016, many achievements were made, including:
- Exterior tabby walls repaired, and stucco applied
- Timber frame windows and shutters installed
- Wood and concrete floor removed and original tabby floor exposed
- Interior walls and chimney restored
- Tabby floor repaired
- Restoration efforts began for second cabin
A grant was received in January, in the amount of $2,500. The grant was awarded for the continued restoration efforts of the two cabins. Ms. Rodriguez wrote the grant applications and shared that while the cabins are very close to being completely restored, there are just a few minor repairs left in each.
The cabins have been restored to reflect two different periods. One has been restored to look exactly the way it did when the slaves lived in it, while the other reflect the mill days.
While it is unclear exactly why only two cabins are still intact, Rodriguez shared her thoughts as to why:
A descendant of the slaves kept living at one of the cabins, while the cabin that has been restored to reflect the mill days had previously been used as a school, a doctor’s office and an office. “I feel that is what preserved the two cabins. Because she was here, they didn’t tear this one down. It’s very unusual to have two intact buildings and we were fortunate the buildings were here.”
The cabins can be toured at no cost (though there is a suggested donation of $3.00) on Wednesdays in June, July and August, from 10:00 a.m. until noon, and by appointment throughout the year.
The Cassina Garden club still meets in the ‘mill days’ cabin. Founded in 1928, this garden club is the oldest one within Glynn County. With close to 130 members, 90 of which are active, the club’s mission state is as follows: “To preserve and maintain our historic Hamilton Plantation slave cabins and grounds; to promote the love of history, gardening and horticulture; to protect our native plants and wildlife; and the encourage civic and community responsibility for the same.”
For more information on the slave cabins or Cassina Garden Club, visit their website.