This photo didn’t turn out as I’d hoped. You may still be able to read the text, though, if you click it for a larger image. It’s an informational plaque in the picnic and recreation area just behind the Park Office that describes the role of the Roosevelt Administration’s Civilian Conservation Corps in the creation of South Carolina’s system of state parks.
The CCC built sixteen or seventeen of these Parks between 1933 and 1942 for South Carolina. When you stop by the office, be sure to pick up a copy of the free four-page pamphlet on the role of the CCC in the creation of this Park. It’s beautifully written, and includes a small map and reproductions of three rare black-and-white photos of the Corps at work.
According to this Lee CCC history, work began here in in mid-1935. By the end of August 1935 the 199 men of what they informally named “Camp Robert E. Lee,” had erected 14 buildings. The project employed nearly 200 men from Lee and six surrounding counties at a time when employment of any kind must have been most welcome.
The workmanship on these original CCC buildings is phenomenal. Which is surprising when you think about it. Most of the workers were trained on the job. They had very few tools beyond the most simple. And they were working at a very rapid pace.
Nearly all materials were found near the building site. The Corps built its own saw mills, and even stone quarries! Wooden pegs were used in place of nails. Most of the timber used in these buildings was juniper. Long-lasting, but not the easiest wood to work with. Look closely at this entryway pillar. Hand hewn, and solid as a rock. This accomplishment was even more remarkable when you consider the labor force. Well, we’re all still benefiting from their work today. 70 years after the event.
And here’s another exhibit from the same area. Well, a functional exhibit. That’s a genuine grist wheel. Taken, I believe, from an abandoned mill nearby. The CCC builders rescued and preserved the wheel as an unusual picnic table. I’m sure the wooden seats have been replaced a number of times. But the table is original. There are two of them in this area.
Before moving on a couple of other CCC-built features caught my eye. I’ve seen similar benches in other CCC-built Parks. They’re built to last. With sturdy concrete sides, and more comfortable wooden cross-pieces. And they’re always turned in the direction of a nice view.
This view was hard to resist. The Old and the New. Side by side right in front of the Park Office here at Lee State Park. A beautifully crafted stone drinking fountain on the right. And a recycling receptacle on the left. Different eras; different concerns and interests. Well illustrated here.
Next, we’ll take a short walk around the interesting series of ponds to the rear of the Park Office. All fed by artesian springs. A beautiful walk that’s navigable even by those of us who aren’t as spry as we once were.