Perhaps you’ve noticed it as you’ve turned off Highway 17 onto Mathis Ferry Road, just past the first traffic circle. More likely than not, you haven’t paid it much attention. But that’s about to change.
The vacant, nondescript lot on the corner of 5th Avenue will soon become the site of a new park, and it won’t be just any park. This one will serve as a heritage memorial site, honoring the Scanlonville community founders. The area, often referred to as Remley’s Point, has been home to generations of African Americans. The residents initially settled there after the Civil War when freedman John Scanlon purchased 614 acres of the Remley’s Plantation. He divided most of the land into residential lots and sold them to other formerly enslaved people.
Jackie Gore, lifelong Scanlonville resident and treasurer of the East Cooper Civic Club, explained, “We have worked for years with the town to ensure that preservation efforts in the Scanlonville community are addressed. We wanted to ensure that this park blends into the surroundings but also reflects our heritage. A competition for the park’s design was held among landscape architecture students at North Carolina A&T State University. The name Praise House Park was also coined by students to reflect the importance of the praise house in African American settlement communities.”
Developing a vision for Praise House Park
The A&T students were tasked with solving the issue of making a small park stand out in a town with so many others. Three considerations were deemed most important in the Scanlonville park’s design: a celebration of the battles and triumphs of the community’s founders, an homage to the region’s cultural history and the development of a deeper shared understanding of Scanlonville. A panel of town officials, professional landscape engineers and Scanlonville residents chose the winning design from the submissions.
“The East Cooper Civic Club has a great vision for this property,” said Liz Boyles, division chief in the town’s Office of Neighborhood Livability. The town will add a 10-foot-wide walk and bike trail along Mathis Ferry Road connecting the parklet to an existing path along Wingo Way that runs to Waterfront Park. As part of the town’s comprehensive plan, known as Mount Pleasant Way, the non-motorized path will eventually run from one end of town to the other. “The various segments of the trail will be named after places people want to go or what is already there. We look for opportunities to partner where we can, so the Scanlonville section will be named Praise House Trail,” Boyles added.
Boyles said the trail should be completed next year, and Gore indicated the groundbreaking and first phase of the park’s construction will begin later this year. With an estimated cost of $800,000, its completion is dependent on grant money and private funding. According to Gore, once the funding goal has been met, the project should take approximately 18 months to complete.
Donations can be made through the group’s website, EastCooperCivicClub.org.
By Mary Coy