The Frances Jones House is not your typical island vacation rental in South Carolina. The charming blue cottage, peeking out from under a massive live oak, offers visitors a one-of-a-kind chance to immerse themselves in the Gullah history and culture of Daufuskie Island, SC.
In a groundbreaking program of the Palmetto Trust for Historic Preservation, the cottage was restored and is now available to visitors to rent for their stay on the island. The Trust's Daufuskie Endangered Places Program seeks to restore and preserve antique Gullah-built homes on Daufuskie.
Some of these historic homes, known as "oyster houses" are still lived in, but most are slowly decaying back into the lush landscape. Most of the heirs of the original Gullah owners have long since moved away from the island in search of economic opportunity, leaving the oyster houses empty. Many of these historically and culturally important houses, shuttered for decades and battered by the humid subtropical climate, are at risk of collapse or irreparable dilapidation.
The Trust leases the houses, restores them, and then rents them out to visitors until the costs of rehabilitation are recovered. The descendants of the original families retain ownership of the property. Once the costs of restoration are repaid, the long-term lease is cancelled, and the use of the house reverts to the owners. The Frances Jones House is the first house the group restored.
Jones was a teacher and the principal of the Mary Fields School on Daufuskie, and was an important force in the Daufuskie community in the 20th century. The original one-room cottage was built, it is believed, in 1865 by Jones' great-grandmother, a freedwoman. Over the decades, additions were added, and the house now has two bedrooms, one bath, and a kitchen as well. It sleeps four.
The restored cottage is furnished with antiques and recalls the way a Gullah family home would've been decorated in the 1920s. And while it might feel like you're stepping back almost 100 years when you walk inside, it has the comforts of the modern world, including a flat screen TV and air conditioning.
The restoration group already is working on its second house, the Hinson-White/Lesesne House. The funds raised from renting the houses will be used to lease yet more at-risk historical structures and restore them as well.
Daufuskie is a rare island -- a Sea Island that is neither a state nor a national park, nor completely developed with stores, hotels and resorts. The chance to stay in an antique, original, Gullah-built house, once occupied by a leader of her community, is rarer still. But knowing that the vacation money you spend is going to help restore and preserve an all-too-quickly vanishing history is perhaps the rarest thing of all.
You can make reservations to stay in the Frances Jones House by contacting Daufuskie Island Accommodations.
For more information on places to stay in South Carolina, visit DiscoverSouthCarolina.com/vacation-rentals.