About the Dataw Historic Foundation
Alcoa purchased Dataw Island in 1983 to develop the island into a premier residential community. Soon after the purchase they contracted to have architectural and archaeological investigations done of the Sams Plantation ruins complex, which consisted of the plantation house ruins, an ice house/dairy, a blade house, the site of the barn or stables, kitchen, slave residences and the Sams family chapel and cemetery. Following these investigations, steps were taken to clear the area of detrimental vegetation. Trees with root systems that threatened the fragile walls were removed. The horizontal surfaces of the tabby walls were capped with a lime concrete which was chemically and physically compatible with the underlying original tabby composite. Wood framing of windows, doors, and other openings were replaced to support the tabby spans. During both the investigations and follow-up conservation work, valuable artifacts were found in the Sams house and outlying areas.
In the mid ‘90s, a small group of Dataw residents formed a Ruins Committee and, with permission from Alcoa, began to oversee the collection of artifacts, compile records and work on preservation efforts at the ruins. In 1997, the group became the Dataw Historic Foundation. It has grown to become the largest group on Dataw. Nearly half of Dataw’s residents are members of the organization. While preservation of the historic structures is still a major goal, the Foundation strives to make the rich 300-plus year Dataw history more meaningful for all residents. A walk through the Sams plantation area and the cemetery reveals over 30 preservation projects to the original structures along with new signs and an antebellum garden. Signage projects reveal the original layout and look of the plantation house complex, how the house was constructed and how each of the structures was used between 1786 and 1861. The Sams family continued to use the plantation house until the outbreak of the Civil War. Plantation families fled the area when the Union Army arrived and the Sams plantation was abandoned.
Recent preservation projects include reinstallation of floor beams at the plantation house, stabilization of the cemetery wall, reconstruction of the well and restoration of a historic crypt. New signs identify several historic areas of interest around the complex as well as around the island including the former slave cemetery on Cotton Dike Road.
Many artifacts found on the property, several items donated by the Sams family and detailed Sams family trees can be seen in a display area on the second floor of the Clubhouse. A display of the history of Dataw from the Native Indian Era up to the present has been created and is on display in the reception area of the Welcome Center, where a scale model of the plantation house is a focal point for visitors. Archived materials, including Dataw’s history since Alcoa, have been relocated to a new Dataw History Center located in an upstairs room of the Welcome Center. Artifacts have been carefully inventoried and electronically documented through newly purchased museum software.
The successful funding of over $140,000 for preservation/restoration projects has primarily been possible due to the enthusiastic and growing support of DHF members. Early preservation projects were funded by the DIOA; but for the past several years, all major projects have been funded by DHF members through membership dues and funds raised from special events and projects.