For Immediate Release:
Nov. 16, 2021
Historic Brattonsville’s Brick House makes its inaugural opening to the public on Nov. 23 with new exhibits in place
The Brick House opens its front rooms as a museum space for telling important, but difficult stories of the regional community during the Reconstruction Era
McCONNELLS, S.C. – The Brick House opens with stories to tell from the days of the Reconstruction Era in York County. With new exhibits installed, Historic Brattonsville opens the two front rooms on the house’s first floor as museum spaces. The exhibition represents a part of Brattonsville’s history that has not been a major part of the site’s interpretation until now. The inaugural opening is Nov. 23 during the site’s normal hours of operation.
In the Brick House’s front parlor, the new exhibit “Liberty & Resistance: Reconstruction and the African American Community at Brattonsville 1865-1877” details the tumultuous times in York County following the Civil War. Unfolding a significant chapter in the history of Civil Rights in America, the exhibit prominently looks at the legacy of James Williams, an African American formerly enslaved on the Bratton Plantation who became a regional civil rights leader after emancipation. Williams’ heroic efforts cost him his life at the hands of the Ku Klux Klan in March 1871. Liberty & Resistance tells the story through artifacts, a commissioned painting by local artist Dan Nance, and a series of panels with text and historical imagery.
Community vetted: Due to the sensitive nature of the story, Culture & Heritage Museums collaborated with descendants of James Williams for vetting and approval of the exhibit “Liberty & Resistance: Reconstruction and the African American Community at Brattonsville 1865-1877.” Along with the Williams’ family, Historic Brattonsville’s Community Advisory Group on African American Programming, representatives from South Carolina African American Heritage Commission, Bratton family descendants, and academic advisors were engaged in authenticating the exhibit’s narrative.
The Brattonsville Store is recreated in the Brick House’s front room adjacent to the parlor. The room is outfitted with interior finishes, counters, and shelves to portray how the general store looked in 1871. The replicated merchandise in stock are based on the store’s actual receipts and records. During and after Reconstruction, the general store served the area’s farming families and was the center of community activity. The general store’s proprietor, Confederate veteran Napoleon Bonaparte Bratton, was a dealer in “Dry Goods, Groceries, Hats, Boots, Shoes, Hardware, and Notions.” The Brattonsville Store operated out of the Brick House from the time the building was completed in 1843 until 1885.
The Brick House’s new interpretive Reconstruction Era exhibit was made possible with the support of a Major Grant from South Carolina Humanities, a not-for-profit organization; inspiring, engaging and enriching South Carolinians with programs on literature, history, culture and heritage.
The Brick House Preservation Project:
Historic Brattonsville’s new Reconstruction Era exhibition was only able to be installed after stabilization and restoration work was completed on the 178 year old Brick House. Years of meticulous work, research and planning were involved in the preservation project. Returned to its original floor plan, the front first-floor rooms of the Brick House were restored with the highest level of accuracy in the smallest of details, from the hardware on the windows and doors to the historic paint colors throughout the first floor. Historic Brattonsville’s Assistant Museum Manager Joe Mester, who has overseen the completion of the Brick House’s restoration, says that the project “gives us an authentic place to tell the truth of Jim Williams’ heroic story and legacy.” Mester emphasizes that “The Brick House isn’t a monument or memorial, but the physical place where Jim Williams bought goods and the place where the coroner examined his body following his murder.”
The stabilization and restoration work of the Brick House was funded in part by the Robert Haywood Morrison Foundation, with earlier phases funded in part by York County Hospitality Tax Commission.
Brief History of the Brick House:
Construction of the Brick House was initiated in 1841 by Dr. John Simpson Bratton and was completed after his death in 1843. The two-story building served as both a private residence for the Brattons and housed the Brattonsville Store. Prior to the American Civil War, the store also served as the post office and voting place for the community. Around 1885, the store moved out of the Brick House into an adjacent wooden building built to serve as the store.
In 1915, the Brattons closed their store and moved to Yorkville (later renamed York.) For the next 30 years, buildings in Brattonsville were leased to share croppers and tenant farmers. By the late 1950s, the Brick House was empty and had fallen into structural disrepair. In 1971, the Brick House, as well as other Bratton houses, were officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Brattonsville Historic District. Culture & Heritage Museums became stewards of the Brick House in 2003 and completed this phase of preservation in early 2021.
Historic Brattonsville is located at 1444 Brattonsville Rd., McConnells, S.C. 29726
Opening date details:
The Brick House opens on Nov. 23 during normal site hours.
Historic Brattonsville General Hours of Operation: Tues. - Sat. 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Sun.1 p.m. – 5 p.m. Closed on Mondays & Holidays. It is recommended that visitors check website for special hours, up to date information other potential changes at chmuseums.org
The Brick House and entire site at Historic Brattonsville will be closed Nov. 25 & 26 for Thanksgiving.
Admission: Purchase tickets online at chmuseums.org. Adults $8; Seniors $7; Youth $5; Free for CHM Members & under 3
Media contacts, please call or email Marie Cheek to coordinate site visits and special interviews
1. The Brick House’s restored exterior taken Jan. 2021 by CHM staff.
2. The recreated Brattonsville Store, as it would have looked in 1871, stocked with replicated goods based on archived receipts and records. Photo taken Nov. 2021 by CHM staff.
Contact Marie Cheek for high resolution images.
About Culture & Heritage Museums:
Culture & Heritage Museums is a family of museums in York County: Historic Brattonsville in McConnells, the McCelvey Center, which includes the Historical Center, in York, and the Museum of York County and Main Street Children's Museum in Rock Hill. CHM is a Smithsonian Affiliate and is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. According to AAM, accreditation is “the ultimate mark of distinction in the museum field” and “signifies excellence and credibility to the entire museum community, to governments and outside agencies and to the museum-going public.” In South Carolina, there are only twelve museums or museum systems that have achieved this distinction.