From Dude Magazine

View full article

View full article

The Santa Elena Foundation will soon have a home in a historic building on the corner of Bay and Bladen Streets in Downtown Beaufort. The former Federal Courthouse building will be transformed to meet the mission of the discovery, preservation, and promotion of Santa Elena, the 16th century settlement established on present-day Parris Island. Santa Elena was the European capital city of all Spanish claimed lands from Newfoundland to the Rio Grande known as La Florida.! The children born in Santa Elena would have been forty-years old when Pocahontas met John Smith at Jamestown.

This summer, Beaufort County will finalize a long-term lease with the Foundation to establish a first class Interpretive Center to tell the Santa Elena story. The historic building is located on the original site of the “Barnwell Castle,” one of the finest homes in Beaufort. In 1825, Beau-fort hosted a ceremonial ball honoring the Marquis de Lafayette. Sold to Union officers during the Civil War for taxes, the building was used as a courthouse in the 1870’s until it burned to the ground in 1879.

The current building was erected in the fall of 1883, then radically modified in 1936! After more modifications it was dedicated as the United States Federal District Court House in November 1994, but it has not been an active courthouse for several years.Soon, new life will be spirited into this historic site, and the public will be invited to enjoy it as a unique cultural interpretive center destined to become an important attraction for local, national, and international visitors.

“We are most grateful to our Marines on Parris Island who care for the site and to Beaufort County Council for allowing us to utilize this historical building.” said Dr. Andy Beall, Santa Elena Foundation Executive Director. “Their support provides the Foundation with an important, emerging history to tell and an excellent location in which to share it with the public.”

The first priority for the Santa Elena Foundation is to modify the interior of the building by creating a reception area, display hall, conference and lecture room, museum shop and headquarters for the Santa Elena Foundation. This remodeling will be completed this fall so visitors can begin to learn the story of Santa Elena.

Major renovations will then begin on the second floor where the 2,500 square foot, stately mahogany-walled courtroom, judge’s chambers and deliberation rooms will be transformed into exhibition space with interactive displays on the history of the Santa Elena.

The final phase of creating the Santa Elena Center will convert the lower level into an archaeology lab for artifacts discovered during future archaeology at the 16th century site on Parris Island.

The Foundation has been blessed with several local, experienced businessmen who have volunteered to oversee the renovation, including Architect Mark Sutton of Grady Woods Architects and retired contractor Joe Harden. Co-chairing the Exhibit and Building Commit-tee are specialists Larry Koolkin and Michael Marks, who are working to create an exciting interpretive center. Leith Webb of Beaufort Construction will assist with any approved modifications to the building. The Foundation has also hired the History Workshop of Charleston for exhibit planning and design.

Opportunity abounds for the community to be involved in bringing this project and story to life. Volunteers are needed for every aspect of working with the Foundation, from greeters and docents to artists and writers. Committees of volunteers are dedicating time and talents and invite others to join them as they prepare to open the Santa Elena Center in the 450th year since its founding.

The Founder’s Campaign has also been established to build necessary funding for this project, and the community’s response has been very positive. Support from individuals, businesses, foundations, and government entities is critical to the progress of the Foundation. Areas of need include the Santa Elena Center and exhibits, re-search and archaeology, educational programs and events, and an endowment to keep the organization strong and viable.

To learn more about the Santa Elena Foundation, sign up for volunteer opportunities, or make a donation visit