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Beach Institute African American Cultural Center

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American Missionary Association Building
1868, John Boutell; 1878 reconstruction; 2000-2004 restoration, Lominack Kolman Smith Architects. 502 E. Harris St.
  • Beach Institute African American Cultural Center (Photograph by Daves Rossell)

The American Missionary Association (AMA), a Northern aid society, occupied this property from 1866, providing a school for newly freed blacks. With the help of the Freedmen's Bureau, the AMA enlisted the financial support of Alfred Ely Beach, an inventor, publisher, and patent attorney. Atlanta architect Boutell constructed the school from plans used for a Freedmen's Bureau school in his home town. The design featured eight rooms, serving eighty students each, and a chapel for five hundred. Completed in 1868, the two-story frame building on a raised basement rose abruptly on its Price Street frontage and featured wooden pilasters and a hipped roof with a pedimented front gable facing E. Harris Street, and was accessed through stairwells on each end of the building. A fire in 1878 led to the building's reconstruction, which included a louvered ventilator rising from a tin roof instead of the original wooden shingles, without the Harris Street pediment. The AMA ran the school until 1939, when the Chatham County Board of Education purchased it and used it until 1970. In 1988, SCAD bought the vacant Beach Institute building and donated it to the King-Tisdell Foundation; it reopened in 1990 as an African American cultural center.

Writing Credits

Daves Rossell
Robin B. Williams



  • 1868

  • 1878

  • 2000


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Daves Rossell, "Beach Institute African American Cultural Center", [Savannah, Georgia], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

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