New hope for old fort: SPA to transfer Castle Pinckney to Sons of Confederate Veterans
By David Slade
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Mark Schara was part of a National Park Service crew that completed a detailed electronic survey of Castle Pinckney this year to help jump-start a conversation about its future. The State Ports Authority has since agreed to turn over the neglected historic site to a new owner.
The SPA said it has been approached by people who had commercial proposals for the property, such as building a home on the site. Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp 1269Commander Philip Middleton said he was concerned about the possibilities.
"We didn't want to see something out there like a sports bar, with neon lights," he said.
The group has no immediate plans for Castle Pinckney.
"I would say that we are in the very early stages of exploring the conservation options available to our camp," said Bill Snow, another leader in the organization who attended the SPA board meeting.
The SPA acquired the property in 1958 as a possible site to dump dredge spoils, but didn't use it for that purpose and has twice attempted to give the property away. The SPA gave Castle Pinckney to the Shriners in 1964, but the Shriners gave it back the following year.
The SPA then gave the property to the Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp 1269, in 1969, but that organization returned the property in 1984.
This time, the transfer is for keeps -- or at least that's the SPA's hope.
Byron Miller, spokesman for the SPA, said the maritime agency has been unable to use the property for business purposes, and had to spend some money protecting the small island from erosion.
"For some time, we've wanted to find a more appropriate owner," he said. "What we communicated to ... (Camp 1269) is that we view Castle Pinckney as an important part of Charleston's maritime heritage, that needs to be protected."
Castle Pinckney sits at the end of a spit of sand in Charleston Harbor known as Shute's Folly. Most of the uninhabited island is owned by a family trust with a mailing address on South Battery.
The eastern tip of the island has been home to Castle Pinckney since its completion in 1809 or 1810. It's one of two round, brick fortifications from that era that survive today, with the other two being in New York Harbor.
The fort was seized by Confederate forces without a fight prior to the bombardment of Fort Sumter, and later was used as a prison for Union soldiers.
In the late 1800s a lighthouse -- now just a memory -- was built at the site. The fort was designated a national monument in 1924, but the federal government changed its mind in the 1950s and undesignated the site, leading to its sale to the SPA.
Now, for the second time, the Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp 1269 will get a chance to preserve the historic but long-neglected fort.
"Our ultimate aim is to preserve this facility in a respectful and dignified way, to provide a visible link to the past for future generations in the Charleston area," Snow said. "The fort is a part of our Lowcountry heritage and will be honored as such by the Fort Sumter Camp of the SCV."