Tillman School is located on SC Highway 321 in Tillman, South Carolina. The school, now owned by the Morris Center for Lowcountry Heritage, is significant as a well-preserved example of an early 20th century school building designed by a prominent Charleston-based architect in the Craftsman style. Sarah Ward with Ward Architecture + Preservation, successfully listed the property in the National Register of Historic Places in 2016. This required the preparation of all nomination materials and proclaiming its historical significance to the state register review board as part of the federal designation process.
During the first half of the 20th century, school buildings in Jasper County transformed from small rural frame structures into consolidated regional schools divided into districts. Constructed in 1926, Tillman School survives as an artifact of these early consolidation efforts. Charleston based architect John D. Newcomer designed the Tillman School in the Craftsman style. The exterior maintains Craftsman style architectural detailing and materials while the interior retains the classroom and administration room configuration, chalkboards, auditorium including the stage and furnishings, cast iron pot belly stoves, lighting fixtures, wall treatments and hard wood flooring throughout.
The auditorium served many school and community-wide functions and events. It is a large space with two sections of seating divided by a center aisle. Drop pendent lights with milk-glass shades hang over the audience. A full-width stage rises above the west end of the auditorium with individual stage rooms on either side. Velvet curtains still hang on horizontal bars over the front of the wooden stage floor. Most events for the community centered on the school and the auditorium facilitated this great connection still resonate with many Tillman residents today.
Untouched for many years, the property was purchased by Danny Morris in 1987. Upon his death in 2005, the property transferred to his estate and the Daniel O. Morris Low Country Heritage Trust, now the Morris Center for Lowcountry Heritage, was established to preserve the building and highlight the history of the area.
The process for listing the property in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) begins by documenting the building and researching its history to identify its historical significance. This information is submitted to the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) who determines its eligibility for designation. If determined eligible, a nomination form is prepared detailing the physical condition of the building and historical significance of the property. Photo documentation, maps and floor plans highlight the property and its attributes. The final draft is reviewed by the State Review Board at a public hearing. Upon approval they forward the nomination to the Keeper of the National Register at the National Park Service in Washington, DC who makes the final determination for designation in the NRHP.
The NR designation is primarily honorific. It signifies the importance of sites within our collective history and provides with limited protections from impacts of state or federally assisted projects.
WARD ARCHITECTURE + PRESERVATION