DeReef Court and Park collection
Scope and Contents note
The collection holds ancestral histories, photocopied deeds and census reports re the DeReef brothers; correspondence with emails; documents re the history and structural condition of United Missionary Chapel in 9 DeReef Court; information re local African-American churches and praise houses; information re Cannonborough/Elliotborough and Radcliffeborough neighborhoods; signed petitions re "Save DeReef Park;" City of Charleston planning commission reports; city council minutes; meeting notes taken by Miller; transcripts from community residents interviews; Smith-Morris Neighborhood planned unit development reports; and various newspaper articles re DeReef Court and Park, and the City of Charleston.
The collection contains one series: "DeReef Court and Park Historical Information, 1854-2012.
- Majority of material found within 1990-2012
- Miller, Mary S. (Person)
The nature of the Avery Research Center's archival holdings means that copyright or other information about restrictions may be difficult or even impossible to determine despite reasonable efforts. The Avery Research Center claims only physical ownership of most archival materials. The materials from our collections are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study, pursuant to U.S. copyright law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source.
DeReef Court was named for Joseph (1802-1876) and Richard Edward DeReef (1798-1876), two successful free men of color in 19th-century Charleston. The brothers obtained their wealth through the purchase of real estate and establishing a lumber factory. Refusing to allow Charleston tax collectors to describe their status as "free mulattoes," the brothers claimed their mother's (Nancy DeReef), Native American ancestry. The DeReef brothers challenged and won their case in the Court of Common Pleas (1823). Richard DeReef was appointed to Charleston City Council in 1868. The brothers were founding members of the Brown Fellowship Society, a benevolent society for free men of color.
DeReef Court is located between Jasper and Smith Streets and DeReef Park is bordered by Morris Street in Charleston, South Carolina. From 1854 to the 1960s, DeReef Court and Park held a vibrant African-American residential and business community. During the 20th century, the Court and Park's neighbors included the former Brooks Motel, Shiloh AME Church, and the Cannon Street YMCA (which remains in existence). The neighborhood fell into decline during the latter 20th century.
Presently DeReef Park represents the last green space situated in an largely urban residential area. The former United Missionary Chapel, located at 9 DeReef Court, has been identified as an historic "praise house" church, (traditionally non-denominational African-American congregations that were typically located in rural locations). The small wood frame building is a notable example of early 20th-century African-American vernacular architecture in Charleston, SC. In the past, the Chapel was utilized as a church and meeting hall by various groups.
With the City of Charleston's approval, initial redevelopment of DeReef Court and Park occurred in 2002 with the Smith-Morris Neighborhood Planned Unit Development. "In 2011, a contingent of residents petitioned Charleston City Council to intervene in land development formally known as "Morris Square," and force the developers to meet with the group regarding their concerns." The challenge to "Save DeReef Court" from the construction of forty-one (41) condominium units was challenged by numerous individuals, the Cannonborough/Elliotborough and Radcliffeborough Neighborhood Associations and organizations including the Preservation Society of Charleston.
Mary S. Miller, a former librarian, community activist and resident of the Radcliffeborough community. She is a member of the non-profit Charleston, SC organization, "Friends of DeReef Park." The citizen-led group is "dedicated to limiting further residential and commercial development with the objective of preserving green space and a mission of fostering the development and creation of an American heritage park site, including historical Native American, African American and Jewish social, cultural and economic institution." The group seeks to achieve their objective by "fundraising monies to purchase part or all of DeReef Court (Morris Square, Phase II) from the developer, and educating the public on the history of the site."
0.25 linear feet (1 archival box)
Language of Materials
DeReef Court is a former African-American residential housing community in the City of Charleston, South Carolina established in 1854. Named after Joseph and Richard Edward DeReef, free men of color who were successful entrepreneurial brothers. Presently, the residential park known as DeReef Park represents the last green space in the Cannonborough/Elliotborough neighborhood.
The collection holds ancestral histories, photocopied deeds and census reports regarding the DeReef brothers; correspondence with emails; documents regarding United Missionary Chapel in 9 DeReef Court, local African-American churches and praise houses; information regarding Cannonborough/Elliotborough and Radcliffeborough neighborhoods; signed petitions regarding "Save DeReef Park;" City of Charleston planning commission reports; city council minutes; meeting notes taken by Mary Miller; transcripts from community residents interviews; Smith-Morris Neighborhood planned unit development reports; and various newspaper articles regarding DeReef Court and Park and the City of Charleston.
1. DeReef Court and Park Historical Information, 1854-2012
The donor of this collection is Mary S. Miller, a retired librarian, community activist, and resident of the Radcliffeborough neighborhood. As a member of the "Friends of DeReef Park," Miller researched and collected documents pertaining to the history of DeReef Court and Park in an interest to preserve and save DeReef Park from redevelopment.
Processed by Georgette Mayo, March 2014
Edited by Aaron Spelbring, March 2014
Encoded by Aaron Spelbring, March 2014
- African American churches -- South Carolina -- Charleston
- African Americans -- South Carolina -- Charleston -- History
- Cannonborough-Elliottborough (Charleston, S.C.)
- DeReef Court (Charleston, S.C.)
- DeReef Park (Charleston, S.C.)
- DeReef family
- DeReef, Joseph, 1802-1876
- DeReef, Richard Edward, 1798-1876
- Miller, Mary S.
- Radcliffeborough (Charleston, S.C.)
- United Missionary Chapel (Charleston, S.C.)
- DeReef Court and Park Collection AMN 1128
- Finding aid prepared by Georgette Mayo
- Description rules
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note
- Description is in English