Friday, January 28, 2011

Interview with Mr. Al Hester, Historic Sites Coordinator for the South Carolina Park Service. December 15, 2010

Al Hester 01

I first met Mr. Al Hester, Historic Sites Coordinator for the South Carolina State Park Service, while gathering material for an article about Sesquicentennial State Park’s mid-18th century log house.

cabin 0aSince first visiting Sesqui, as the Park is fondly known to nearly everyone around here, I’ve been fascinated by this log house. So it seemed about time late last year to begin a series of articles that describe the house in more detail.

Nearly everyone I contacted to learn more about this remarkable building mentioned Mr. Hester as an excellent source of information. So, I gave him a call.

Now, Al Hester is hardly the sort of person I expected to meet. Somehow I was ready for an introverted, bookish sort of person, steeped in state bureaucracy, with the protective instincts of a small university research librarian about the irreplaceable materials under his care. Well! That’s far from the person who answered my call!

Not only was Mr. Hester accessible. He seemed genuinely pleased to talk with someone interested in one of the historic sites within his area of responsibility. He even offered to do the interview right at the log house rather than at his downtown office, as I proposed!

Here, Mr. Hester describes his background, education, and preparation for the important post he now occupies in South Carolina’s Park Service. I hope this short video gives you a sense of the person, and his approach to his important responsibilities.

Next, I asked Mr. Hester to describe his responsibilities as coordinator of historic sites for the South Carolina Park Service.

Quite a challenge. Lots of responsibility. And though Mr. Hester didn’t mention it, I doubt that he’s given a huge budget to work with.

We then turned to the origins of this interesting historic structure. I’d already read everything about the building I could find on the internet, and had consulted a few hard-copy reference materials. Mr. Hester here is far more specific. He also corrects some of the inaccuracies in the materials available electronically. True to his training as a public historian, he readily admitted that not much is known about the early life of this log house.

The journey from it’s original location, in an old Columbia neighborhood near the Broad River, was our next topic of conversation.

cabin1It’s a miracle that the house even survived! Scheduled for demolition as a derelict property, only the sharp eyes of City workers on the scene saved it from destruction. Someone on that crew recognized that a very old log house existed in quite good repair underneath the nondescript wooden siding! They alerted folks more interested in historic preservation, and the house eventually was dismantled and moved – piece by piece – to its present location at Sesqui.

We then talked briefly about the Park Service’s plans for this impressive facility. Let’s hope that funding can be found to open it at least on weekends to Park visitors. Including the additional staffing and interpretive signs required to make public visits more meaningful.

In conclusion, Mr. Hester tells us more about the challenges the Park Service faces in renovating and preserving Sesqui’s mid-18th century log house.

Thanks again to Mr. Al Hester for his generous contribution of time and expertise to the CarolinaConsidered Project.

Stay tuned since there’s plenty more to come here about the log house. Next up will be an interview with Sesqui Park Manager Daniel Gambrell who will describe the Park Staff’s role in the recent renovation.

Click here to return to the Sesqui Log House Page

Click here to return to the CarolinaConsidered Project website.

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