Keeping island history on the map

Heritage Library board chairman Cal Callahan introduces Hilton Head Island Mayor John McCann during the recognition ceremony May 6 naming Zion Chapel of Ease to the National Register of Historic Places. COURTESY HERITAGE LIBRARY

Our community is fortunate to have a wealth of resources and volunteers that take pride in preserving our island history and culture. Last month, our St. Luke's Parish Zion Chapel of Ease and Cemetery, tucked beneath an umbrella of trees where Mathews Drive and William Hilton Parkway converge, earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.

That is quite an accomplishment.

On behalf of the Town of Hilton Head Island, I congratulate the Heritage Library's board, staff and volunteers on this achievement and for keeping our local history on the map.

With this latest designation, we now have nine historical sites on the National Register of Historic Places. As these sites are designated for their historic and archaeological value, we are indeed preserving and protecting the culture and history of our Island at a much higher level.

Each time we achieve a place on the National Register, it shows again the relevance of our local history within American history.

It's no small task to be considered a place of historical significance. The Heritage Library spent two years in pursuit of this designation for the cemetery site.

Executive Director Barbara Catenaci explained that the team of staff and volunteers had to describe in detail how the site contributed to history. In this instance, four soldiers who fought in the American Revolutionary War are buried in the cemetery.

The Baynard Mausoleum - the oldest existing structure on the island - is located there. Library volunteers have documented graves and buildings and researched other historical facts.

Beyond just contributing to local and national history, the Zion Chapel of Ease site is a great example of how Hilton Head Island fits within the national trend of heritage tourism. Heritage tourism showcases the unique aspects of an area's history, landscape, natural resources and culture, and helps it attract visitors.

Last year, 2,000 visitors toured two historical sites owned by the Heritage Library, including the Zion Chapel of Ease and Cemetery and Fort Mitchell, and attended Library-sponsored events. With its work in historical preservation, the Heritage Library is helping islanders and visitors connect to our past and understand our present existence.

There are numerous efforts underway to uncover and showcase our history from different perspectives. Together, they all help to tell the fascinating story of Hilton Head Island.

John McCann is the mayor of Hilton Head Island.

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