The York W. Bailey Museum At Penn Center (St. Helena Island, SC)


~The York W. Bailey Museum at Penn Center~

Lands End Road (SC 37), St. Helena Island, South Carolina 29920

(843) 838-2432 /


Sometimes I come across a place that is a bit of a detour off of Highway 17, but so worth it. One such detour is Penn Center (formerly called Penn School) which is located in the Penn School Historic District, near Frogmore, South Carolina on St. Helena Island. It is a beautiful place with a deep history: Penn School was established in 1862, during the American Civil War, as part of the Port Royal Experiment, a program in which freed slaves were taught skills and worked on land abandoned by plantation owners. Penn School played an important role to many freed slaves from the Sea Islands and is the heart of the Gullah culture today. Please read more about the history of this place at the Penn Center website.

The York W. Bailey Museum was named for a Penn School graduate and the first African-american physician to serve St. Helena and surrounding Sea Islands. It is located in the historic Cope Industrial Building, and contains four galleries (with a collection of wonderful historical photographs) and a lovely gift shop and book store. The museum provides tours and demonstrations, and there is also a video that is one of the most fascinating I’ve seen in a museum anywhere. The setting – the 50-acre Penn Center Campus – is filled with live oaks dripping spanish moss.

If you get a chance, please visit this exceptional place. – Penn Center

National Landmarks Historic Program – Penn School Historic District

South Carolina Department of Archives and History – Penn Center Historic District