Seabrook is a small coastal Georgia community located approximately 30 miles south of Savannah and 4 miles east of I-95’sExit 76. The Seabrook Community was one of the few areas that benefited from General William T. Sherman’s field order #15 also known as “40 acres and a mule.” By working and saving, many African-Americans amassed large land holdings in the coastal Georgia area that symbolized security and freedom. Their descendants farmed their land building the strong community of Seabrook centered on faith, hard work, self-determination, and education.
Until the mid-1970s when I-95 was constructed, Seabrook remained isolated and generationally intact. With the decline of small-scale agriculture and the incursion of development and industry in the rural South, Seabrook and communities like it faced cultural annihilation. Here in Seabrook, however, residents and descendants are working together to help our heritage survive.
The Seabrook School and other buildings from the community now share the site and have become symbolic of courage, commitment, and enlightenment. These buildings connect us to the past. They help us to remember, to understand, and to honor those whose determination, ingenuity, and pride built a future in spite of hardship.
In 1990, residents of Seabrook expressed a desire for a new community center and decided to raze the century-old Seabrook School. Long abandoned and in disrepair, the school stood for many as a symbol of hardship and segregation. A group of Seabrook alumni, then in their 70s and 80s, protested and reminded their neighbors that the Seabrook School, when it was built around 1900, was a dignified symbol of hope and cooperation in an era of new-found freedom. And so the church donated the school building to a concerned citizens group who formed The nonprofit Seabrook School Foundation to lead the resurrection of the Seabrook School
During the summer of 1991, the school was dismantled, restored, and rebuilt on a piece of donated land adjacent to Palmyra Missionary Baptist Church. The project was placed under the supervision of Warren Murphey, Director of Historic Structures, Jekyll Island. The building was then dismantled and moved to nearby Springfield Plantation where for four months, Savannah College of Art and Design graduate Sonja Wallen, under Murphey’s direction, restored the pieces board by board. Finally, it was rebuilt on its new site using ancient oak stumps and antique timbers to replace rotted sections. Once standing proudly square and whitewashed on its knoll, the Seabrook community rallied around the positive aspects of their heritage represented so simply yet eloquently by the little one-room schoolhouse.
After the Seabrook School’s rededication in October 1991, the Foundation expanded it vision and works rapidly to include 15 acres of fields, pine forest, swamp and tidal creek, and seven completed structures:
The Village opened for tours March 1994 with the Bowens House serving as Seabrook’s office, gift shop, and exhibit gallery. The site has hosted nearly 30,000 school children in hands-on interpretative field trips and countless adults for group tours and special events.
Seabrook Village is one of 12 regional 1994-95 Cultural Olympiad designees for excellence in innovative programming the humanities. We participated in Georgia State of the Arts in October 1994. Also, during the 100 days of the Centennial Olympic Games, Seabrook was part of Arts Ashore, Savannah’s Olympic cultural celebration. “Out of the Mouths” featured the children of Seabrook who completed our summer history program as site interpreters.
Seabrook Village quickly rose as a leader in educational outreach, cultural preservation, and grassroots development. After many years as a thriving institution, access to volunteers and funding caused activities at Seabrook to cease in 2017.
Thankfully, a group of descendants and supporters began efforts in 2020 to revive Seabrook Village. Seabrook residents are fighting against dire realities and predictions about our environment and economic situation. Through Seabrook, future generations can experience and understand the difficulties of those early days and the special strengths and character of those who lived them. By drawing from the past, we are working together to preserve our heritage and provide a future for coastal Georgia that takes pride in our Gullah Geechee history.
660 Trade Hill Road
Midway, GA 31320
© 2021 Seabrook Village Foundation.