History and Culture Program

York W. Bailey Museum, also known as the Cope Industrial Shop was built in 1912 to house the harness-making, wheel-righting, blacksmith, basketry, carpentry, and cobbling classes. The Cope Shop is named for Francis Cope, a Philadelphia Quaker who served as trustee for many years. The Cope Shop was dedicated on Penn's 50th Anniversary, an event which was heightened by remarks from ex-slaves, and Civil War heroes. One of these was General Robert Smalls, who by then had served in the South Carolina State Legislature, and the United States Congress. Rededicated in April 1999, the Cope Shop now houses the York W. Bailey Museum. Dr. York W. Bailey was a Penn School graduate who returned to St. Helena Island after receiving his medical doctorate at Howard University.

York W. Bailey Museum, also known as the Cope Industrial Shop was built in 1912 to house the harness-making, wheel-righting, blacksmith, basketry, carpentry, and cobbling classes. The Cope Shop is named for Francis Cope, a Philadelphia Quaker who served as trustee for many years. The Cope Shop was dedicated on Penn's 50th Anniversary, an event which was heightened by remarks from ex-slaves, and Civil War heroes. One of these was General Robert Smalls, who by then had served in the South Carolina State Legislature, and the United States Congress. Rededicated in April 1999, the Cope Shop now houses the York W. Bailey Museum. Dr. York W. Bailey was a Penn School graduate who returned to St. Helena Island after receiving his medical doctorate at Howard University.

York W. Bailey Museum will be CLOSED for renovations October 22-30, 2019.

The welcome center will be open October 22-30 and sells historic campus maps for self-guided tours of the historic campus.

Penn Center—Penn School National Historic Landmark District (NHLD) is the only African American National Historic Landmark District in the State of South Carolina.

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The Penn Center History and Culture Program focuses on the heritage of the Sea Islands and Lowcountry African American culture, the Gullah Geechee culture. To do so, the program interprets the history of Penn School—Penn Center and the 50-acre National Historic Landmark District, operates the York W. Bailey Museum, maintains and manages the on-site Penn School Collection, oversees the Penn School Papers, which are archived within the Southern Historic Collection housed at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill’s Wilson Library, operates the Courtney P. Siceloff Welcome Center, and implements a range of exhibitions, demonstrations, presentations, and public programs, like the Gullah Studies Symposiums and the annual Heritage Days Celebration in November.

Penn School National historic landmark district…

When you arrive, your first stop should be the Courtney P. Siceloff Welcome Center and Gift Shop and the York W. Bailey Museum.

  • Visit the Courtney P. Siceloff Welcome Center to purchase your admission to the museum and self-guided walking tour map, to enjoy the history of Penn Center’s 50-acre Penn School National Historic Landmark District.

    • Purchase gifts and Penn Center memorabilia

    • Purchase books:

      • Letters and Diary of Laura M. Towne (Founder of Penn School)

      • Penn Center: A History Preserved by Orville Vernon Burton

      • De Nyew Testament (Gullah Bible)

  • View the Education for Freedom exhibition in the York W. Bailey Museum, which interprets the 86-year history of Penn School beginning in 1862, Penn School during the Reconstruction Era, Penn Normal Industrial and Agricultural School, and the Civil Rights Movement at Penn Community Services. The museum also showcases many other temporary and traveling exhibitions.

    • The York W. Bailey Museum Hours:
      Monday - Saturday 9 AM - 4 PM (Beginning September 23, 2019, the York W. Bailey Museum will be open to the public on Mondays.)

      Museum Contact #: (843) 838-7105 or 838-2474

      Museum Admission: $7/Adult | $5/Student | Free/Ages 5 & Under

      Group Tours: Reservations are required for large groups. Please call Penn’s Courtney P. Siceloff Welcome Center at (843) 838-7105 for more information and to make your group reservation. See more information below.

  • Discover and learn how all 25 historic buildings and structures were utilized during the history of Penn School and Penn Center. Enjoy a self-guided walking tour of the 50-acre Penn School National Historic Landmark District. Purchase your map in the welcome center and begin your journey of discovery. Groups can also enjoy a more engaging experience with a Penn School Guided Walking Tour.

We are committed to making the necessary accommodations for the best access to our history, culture, and art for all visitors. However, for your personal comfort, we recommend that you wear casual clothing and comfortable shoes. 

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GROUP TOURS

The Penn Center extends its exhibition and educational resources through its Historical and Cultural Presentations, Penn School Guided Walking Tour and Self-Guided Tours.

Group Tours Available by Appointment: The Courtney P. Siceloff Welcome Center and the York W. Bailey Museum welcomes groups of 10 or more by appointment by calling the Welcome Center: (843) 838-7105 / (843) 838-8554 or Emailing: info@penncenter.com.

School Groups who visit the Museum have many field trip options:

  • History, Art and Culture Presentations

  • Exhibition Scavenger Hunt

  • Museum Walk

  • Guided Walking Tour of Historic Grounds

history, art and culture presentations

  • History of Penn School—Penn Center (1862—2012)

  • The Port Royal Experiment

  • Founders of Penn School: Laura Towne, Ellen Murray and Charlotte Forten

  • Penn School During the American Civil War (1862—1865)

  • Life and Times of the Honorable Robert Smalls

  • Penn School During the Reconstruction Era (1862-1901)

  • Charlotte Forten’s Mission: Penn’s First African American Teacher

  • Civil Rights Movement and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at Penn Center (1948—1968)

  • Who are the Gullah Geechee People?

  • The Prayer House and Spiritual Practices of the Gullah Geechee People

  • The Culture Keepers: Gullah Geechee Artists and Art Forms

  • Local Hero: The Life and Art of Sam Doyle

  • Sweetgrass Basket Presentation and Demonstration. Workshop is available

  • The Art of Indigo Batik Dying. Workshop is available

  • Tale of a Gullah Blacksmith. Talk and Demonstration

  • The Art of Gullah Woodburing

  • Cooking the Gullah Way

  • Gullah Fa’ Oonah: The Gullah Language

  • Please contact the Director of History and Culture at vsmalls@penncenter.com for more information on these offerings.

Indigo Batik Workshop

Indigo Batik Workshop

ACCOMMODATIONS FOR VISITORS WITH SPECIAL NEEDS

Parking
Free parking spaces for people with disabilities are designated directly in front of the Courtney P. Siceloff Welcome Center. From the parking area, there is a wheelchair accessible sidewalk that leads to the Courtney P. Siceloff Welcome Center and York W. Bailey Museum entrance. 

Service Animals
Trained service animals are permitted inside the Courtney P. Siceloff Welcome Center and York W. Bailey Museum to assist patrons.
 
Wheelchairs and Assisted Mobility Vehicles
The Courtney P. Siceloff Welcome Center and York W. Bailey Museum are accessible to wheelchair and assisted mobility vehicle users.

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Penn School National Historic Landmark District Marker

Penn School National Historic Landmark District Marker

Penn School National Historic Landmark District Marker

Penn School National Historic Landmark District Marker