At a time when Georgians are considering which symbols of Southern heritage to preserve, many are unaware of the small number of slave cabins that still exist in the state.
Here’s where to find those former slave dwellings and what’s being done to preserve them.
» The other Southern heritage: Remembering slavery in Georgia
Built circa 1850, the Sautee Nacoochee “African American Heritage Site” cabin in White County housed slaves who worked for prominent White County farmer and businessman E. P. White. Over the past 15 years it was restored by a team led by White’s descendants and a descendant of one of his family’s slaves. This one-room cabin had a window, which would have been a luxury.
The one-room cabin continued to be lived in through the decades and had several rooms added on, which had since rotted away. It had most recently been used as a storage shed. After its restoration, the cabin was moved to a new location.
The original chimney was disassembled, numbered and then reconstructed on the new site of the cabin.
The cabin's restoration includes this recreation of the inside furnishings.
Uncle Remus Museum: This cabin in Eatonton is dedicated to the memory and work of town son, Joel Chandler Harris. Harris’s tales of Brer Rabbit originated in Africa. They were originally told on southern plantations by slaves. The museum is made of portions of at least two slave cabins.
Tabby cabins on Ossabaw Island: Named for the mix of oyster shells, lime, sand and water, the three tabbies on Ossabaw Island have survived since they were built by slaves between 1820 and 1850. 'Tabby' means mortar or mud wall. Since 1978 the Island has been designated a state Heritage Preserve. For the past 10 years these tabbies have undergone restoration.
The tabby cabins on the northern end of Ossabaw Island are the only remaining evidence of the plantation that used to be there.
One of the unique features of these tabby slave cabins is the central chimney.
A closer look at the tabby walls made of shells, sand and lime.
St. Simons Island tabby cabins: Tabby cabins at St. Simons Island now owned by the Cassina Garden Club of Glynn County. The buildings were once part of the Hamilton Plantation. In 1988 they were placed on the National Registry of Historic Places and since this photo was taken, have been undergoing a $400,000 renovation.
This 'after' photo shows the exterior of the buildings after the walls had been repaired. According the the Cassina Garden Club, the walls' restoration revealed the original window openings and some of the paint the slaves used on the interior walls.
This 'before' photo shows the interior of one of the tabby cabins as it appeared before the restoration. One of the restoration's aims is to make the cabin appear more original.
This 'after' photo shows the interior walls after the stucco was removed. When the restoration is complete, the public will see the walls and tabby flooring, as well as a more historically accurate recreation of the roof.
As the Cassina Garden Club explains, each cabin housed two families, with a dividing wall between the units. Each unit had its own tabby-brick fireplace.
Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation Historic Site: This cabin is on a former rice plantation, where the crop was grown even after the Civil War. In 1973, the last plantation heir left the land, including the main house and all its contents, to the state. The slave cabin, a duplex, has been turned into a public bathroom on one side. The other side has been restored to resemble its antebellum appearance.
Sapelo Island Chocolate Plantation ruins: Tabby ruins sit on what was once the Chocolate Plantation dating from the early 1800s. It’s believed there were as many as nine tabby “duplexes” for the slaves who worked the plantation for various owners until the Civil War.
Slave quarters building at the Owens Thomas House: Now part of the Telfair Museums in Savannah, the slave quarters behind the main house serve as perhaps the only surviving example of housing used by urban slaves.
A look at the interior of the slave quarters building at the Owens Thomas House in Savannah.