The Walterborough Library Society Building is the oldest public building in Walterboro. This little building holds a strong legacy and is definitely worth getting a closer look. This small building is known as the Little Library and was the original home of what eventually became the entire library system in Colleton County. The Little Library is owned by the Colleton County Historical and Preservation Society so it continues its tradition of being a place of culture and learning.
In 1820, a group of young men and their families from the Walterboro area were living in Walterboro after being educated in Europe. The lack of reading materials was something that they began to take particular notice of. These enterprising Colleton County residents decided to found the Walterborough Library Society. The Walterborough Library Society amassed an impressive leather bound book collection that was imprinted with the name of the Society in gold on the spines. There were many rules for membership and the members set up strict loan periods and quite a steep fine system for items that were returned late. A member could check out a folio (a large book, approximately the size of our modern coffee-table books) for six weeks, a quarto volume (a book with pages folded in two) for four weeks, an octavo (a book with pages folded in four) for two weeks, and duodecimos (a single sheet from a printing press folded into twelve leaves) could be checked out for two weeks.1
The Little Library is a stunning example of the Federal Style. In her speech at the dedication of the small park that houses the Little Library, Mrs. Laura Lynn Hughes gave the following description of the style of the building: “They used the very best timbers for the beaded clapboards and louvered shutters with colonial hardware…the doorway was emphasized with a fanlight and sidelights and they installed three beautiful Palladian windows.”2 In addition Mrs. Hughes noted that somewhere along the way the Little Library acquired a tin roof, but it was likely not until the early 1900s when it was used as a city hall. Originally it would have had shaker shingles on the roof.3
When the town of Walterboro incorporated in 1826 Archibald Campbell, the surveyor, used the Little Library as his center point and the boundaries of the town were set at three quarters of a mile in each direction from the Little Library.4 In 1845 Richard Bedon donated land in front of his home for a park and the Little Library was moved to its current location. When it was first moved to its current location the Little Library faced Wichman Street but now it has been turned to face Fishburne Street.5
The Walterboro Library Society disbanded in 1836 and its many volumes were split up between its members and the Society donated the building to the town. In 1888 a local schoolteacher by the name of Claudia Stuart reopened the library. When the Library was reorganized many of the original volumes were returned in good condition.6 It had a short-lived run and eventually shut down again. It wasn’t until 1920, a century after its incorporation, that the Walterborough Library Society became a functioning entity again, though this time it was the ladies of the Walterboro Book Club who reorganized and revitalized the Library Society.7 Some fifteen years later the Colleton County Library was established separate from the Walterborough Library Society. They were combined into one library in 1957.8 The collection of books that was housed by the Little Library was moved to the new library facility the Colleton County Memorial Library.9
The vacant building was then occupied by the Colleton County Historical and Preservation Society and continues to be owned by the Society to this day. In 1957 The Little Library was turned 90 degrees to face the park.10 In 1976 the Colleton County Historical and Preservation Society received a generous grant that allowed them to complete some necessary repairs and restoration to the building, though quite amazingly it is largely unaltered from its original state.11
This charming little building in the center of the Historic District of Walterboro still stands as a testament to Walterboro’s history and the legacy of education and culture that was prized in the Walterboro area. In the past few years the building has had many necessary repairs to the roof and the deteriorating wood as well as exterior painting thanks to combined efforts of the Colleton County Historical and Preservation Society, The City of Walterboro, and other trusts. In 2013, thanks to a generous grant from the Colonel Joseph Glover Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, important repairs to the floor and interior painting were completed to maintain the integrity of the building. The Colleton County Historical and Preservation Society continues to own and maintain the property that is being developed into an Archive and Reading room for the local community. You can view the inside of the Little Library by appointment however all are welcome to visit the park and view the exterior of the building at any time.
Written by A. Karel Horn
November 20, 2014
1Estellene P. Walker, “Colleton County Memorial Library,” University of South Carolina, School of Library Science, September 1, 2014. http://www.libsci.sc.edu/histories/vts/epw21.html
2Laura Lynn Hughes, “Collection of Laura Lynn Hughes,” Collection of Papers and Documents detailing the History and Preservation of Colleton County, Colleton County Historical Society, n.d.
6Estellene P. Walker, “Colleton County Memorial Library,” University of South Carolina, School of Library Science, September 1, 2014. http://www.libsci.sc.edu/histories/vts/epw21.html
10Laura Lynn Hughes, “Collection of Laura Lynn Hughes,” Collection of Papers and Documents detailing the History and Preservation of Colleton County, Colleton County Historical Society, n.d.
The Bedon-Lucas house is one of the few remaining high-houses in Colleton County. Located in the heart of Walterboro, South Carolina’s Historic District this beautiful house reminds visitors and locals alike the culture and heritage that is so prevalent in the South. Plantation owners in the Colleton County area were primarily growing rice. Growing rice requires fields that can be flooded with water and are necessarily extremely low-lying. A high-house is a home on higher ground that was also elevated off the ground itself in an attempt to avoid the damp ground and associated illnesses that accompanied Lowcountry summers.
The house was built in 1820 for Richard Bedon by an architect from New York by the name of N.Y. Perry. Bedon used this home as his summer residence until it was sold to Clarence Lucase in 1840. While Richard Bedon lived in the home he donated his front yard in order to create a small park in the center of Walterboro. The Walterboro Library Society building, the Little Library, was moved to the newly formed little park directly in front of the Bedon-Lucas House.1
After Clarence Lucas purchased the home he lived there with his family and the home was eventually left to his son, P.J. Lucas.2 P.J. Lucas and his wife, Ruth, raised six children in the home. The Lucas family lived in the home until health concerns caused the last owner-resident of the home, Mrs. Ruth Lucas, to have to move to nearby Allendale.3 It was rented for a time, however, it eventually fell into neglect and disrepair and suffered some significant damage from Hurricane Gracie in 1959.4 This may have actually saved the Bedon-Lucas house as the hurricane took off the roof and thus had to be replaced.5 Unfortunately important historic homes and buildings are often neglected to the point that demolition becomes necessary, much like the Nullification House that was also located in Walterboro, SC. It began to look like this would be the ultimate fate of the Bedon-Lucas House as well.
Between the 1960s and 1990s the home continued to fall further into disrepair and neglect as the family had moved away from Walterboro. Mrs. Hughes details the damages that were done to the home during the time that the home was uninhabited: “Windows were broken by brick bats, shutters, porcelain door knobs and light fixtures were looted. The gutters deteriorated causing decay to the piazzas and other additions, the yard and house was overgrown by wisteria and smilax vines.”6
Even though several buyers were interested in purchasing and renovating this historic home there were difficulties in being able to strike the right deal with the Lucas heirs.7 In an effort to try to save the house, the Colleton County Historical and Preservation society nominated the home as one of the “Eleven Most Endangered Structures in South Carolina,” in 1995 and began preparations to negotiate to secure the home for restoration and historical preservation.8
The Colleton County Historical and Preservation Society was successful in acquiring the property in 1996 and quickly began removing overgrown vegetation and debris to prepare for restoration of the building itself.9 Much effort has been put into restoring the home in as.
By 2014, the Bedon-Lucas House was again in need of some repairs. Work on the front and back porch floors and ceilings eliminated deteriorated wood. Several trees causing damage both from their limbs to the roof of the house and by their roots to the base of the house were removed. Rotting wood around windows and on the exterior of the house was replaced. The foundation was waterproofed and sealed. The exterior of the house was repainted. The Bedon-Lucas house represents the people of Walterboro and the interior reflects life in Walterboro. The front left room has been restored to the mid 1800s while the back bedroom shows a quilt made in 1910 and represents Victorian Culture.
Today the Bedon-Lucas House is the headquarters of the Colleton County Historical Society. In addition it can be rented out to members of the community for weddings, showers, meetings, concerts, and other events.10 It is important that people realize the significance of saving our old buildings as they allow us to get a glimpse of our history and the culture that used to prevail in the areas in which they are located. Because of the heroic efforts of the Colleton County Historical Society and many generous donors and volunteers this grand beautiful home still stands and provides the opportunity for more people to learn about the local history of Walterboro, South Carolina.
Written by: A. Karel Horn
November 20, 2014
1Laura Lynn Hughes, “Collection of Laura Lynn Hughes,” Collection of Papers and Documents detailing the History and Preservation of Colleton County, Colleton County Historical Society, n.d.
3Jennifer L. Haman, “The Bedon-Lucas House: Identification and Preservation of Artifacts,” Magellan Grant Abstract, The Colleton County Historical and Preservation Society, 2014.
6Laura Lynn Hughes, “Collection of Laura Lynn Hughes,” Collection of Papers and Documents detailing the History and Preservation of Colleton County, Colleton County Historical Society, n.d.
10Stephanie Jadrnickek, “Historical Society Moves Forward,” The Press and Standard, (Walterboro, SC) March 21, 2008.
Your membership helps the Colleton County Historical and Preservation Society care for historical sites and artifacts in Colleton County and makes them accessible to the public. Become a member today. It is only through our partnership with history enthusiasts that CCHAPS can continue to bring history to life.
To submit by mail please contact our office for a paper application:CCHAPS 205 Church Street Walterboro, SC 29488 (843) 549 – 9633
Election was held January 14, 2021. Virtually due to Corona-19 virus restraints.
The Colleton Historical Society was organized on January 9, 1958. We endeavor to preserve historical materials, encourage protection of historic buildings, promote an appreciation of Colleton County’s architectural assets, and place historical markers at important sites.
In 1975 Colleton Historical Society received a grant for the complete restoration of the Little Library, originally constructed about 1820.
In 1977 a separate organization The Walterboro Preservation Society was established to promote the protection of historic buildings and houses. This organization established two historic districts which in 1980 were placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Shortly after this, these two organizations merged to become The Colleton County Historical and Preservation Society.
In 1984 The Colleton County Historical and Preservation Society was instrumental in placing the sundial and planter on the grounds of the Little Library to commemorate Walterboro’s Bicentennial.
In 1988 The Colleton County Historical and Preservation Society opened the Colleton Museum, and restored the Old Jail for this project.