MORRIS CENTER FOR LOWCOUNTRY HERITAGE PRESERVES HISTORY
The Sinclair Service Station building sits on a bustling corner in the center of Ridgeland’s downtown. With its red-tiled roof and antique gas pumps, it is a relic of another time.
The Mission Revival-style service station was built in 1937 and operated for three decades. But today, thanks to the vision of a local businessman, it embodies both the past and future of the Jasper County seat.
The Morris Center opened in September 2015, transforming the station into a place to learn and experience local and regional culture. And in 2018 it expanded the space to include a commercial kitchen, outdoor space, and gallery. The learning and exhibition center aims to preserve the history and culture of Jasper County and the surrounding counties.
COVID-19 initially forced the Morris Center to reduce its hours and make their programs virtual. The website offers a trove of video lectures, workshops, and programs on a variety of topics, including book discussions, cooking demonstrations, arts and crafts, and history lessons.
They have lesson plans and resources for educators that can supplement an on-site visit or be incorporated into classwork. And they’ve recently started hosting in-person events again, with masks and social distancing practices in place.
At the end of February, the Morris Center installed a permanent exhibit about the Battle of Honey Hill, a Civil War battle fought in Ridgeland. A Union mission to cut off the railroad between Charleston and Savannah ahead of Sherman’s arrival ended in defeat when they encountered Confederate forces.
The battle historic marker can be seen along Old House Road on the way into town. In addition to this exhibit, the Morris Center features temporary exhibits that borrow from museum collections around the state.
On April 17, the Center will host an intermediate indigo dyeing workshop with artists Leanne Coulter and Rhonda Davis.
Other upcoming programs include a Seasons of Daufuskie exhibit (May 1-July 31) showcasing 20 black-and-white photographs by Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe. The Morris Center has borrowed the collection from the Columbia Museum of Art. The images were taken in the 1970s and reveal how life on the island has changed over the years.
To coincide with the Daufuskie exhibit, the Center plans to host a digital photography workshop (May 4). On June 11, the Morris Center will also partner with the Pat Conroy Literary Center for a book club discussion on Conroy’s, “The Water is Wide.”
LOVE OF HISTORY
Daniel Morris was born and raised in Tillman, an unincorporated hamlet seven miles from Ridgeland. He was both an antique enthusiast and forward-thinking businessman. The entrepreneurial spirit caught him young, and he knew opportunity wasn’t far from home.
The Tillman school was a colonial-style brick building built in 1926 but closed in the 1960s. In his 20s, Morris purchased the Tillman School building and opened an antique refinishing business. Building on his passion for bringing new life to old things, he later bought the Tillman Store and converted it into a self-service station called Handy Dan’s.
“He loved history,” said Tamara Herring, the executive director of the Morris Center.
When Morris died in 2005, his legacy was in creating a trust dedicated to preserving the history and culture of the area for future generations. That trust includes the Tillman School structure and four vintage buildings, including the Sinclair Station building where the Center resides.
The Morris Center is about 45 minutes from Hilton Head Island. If you plan to make the trip, the Center asks that you schedule an appointment via its website.
For safety reasons, the maximum number of visitors at one time is 10 people.
IF YOU GO
10 a.m.- 4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday
1078 S. Jacob Smart Blvd., Ridgeland
TO SCHEDULE A VISIT