Frogmore: At the Heart of St. Helena Island
St. Helena Island is brimming with sea island culture and a history that is unmatched anywhere else in America. The village of Frogmore is at the heart of it all. An unincorporated community located halfway between Beaufort and Hunting Island State Park, the Frogmore area is primarily rural but is considered to be the commercial center of St. Helena Island.
Frogmore is also the name of a plantation that has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The plantation is located off Seaside Road on Frogmore Manor Drive and is significant for its association with Laura Towne and Ellen Murray, the founders of Penn School.
Frogmore is renowned for being home to the Penn School Historic District, known as Penn Center, a National Historic Landmark. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. studied and lectured at Penn Center during the formative years of his career as a civil rights leader. The museum at Penn Center is a noted cultural attraction and attracts tourists worldwide who are also interested in learning more about this region of the coastal Southeastern United States.
Frogmore Stew, a popular Lowcountry dish originated in the Frogmore community.
In addition to Frogmore Plantation and the Penn School Historic District, plenty of other spots in Frogmore and on St. Helena Island are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Emanuel Alston House, Dr. York Bailey House, Coffin Point Plantation, Coffin Point Plantation Caretaker’s House, The Corner Packing Shed, The Corner Store and Office, Eddings Point Community Praise House, Fort Fremont Battery, Fort Fremont Hospital, Edgar Fripp Mausoleum, St. Helena Island Parish Church, Isaac Fripp House Ruins, The Green, Mary Jenkins Community Praise House, Lands End Road Tabby Ruins, The Oaks, Orange Grove Plantation, Pine Island Plantation Complex, Riverside Plantation Tabby Ruins, St. Helena Parish Chapel of Ease Ruins, St. Helenaville Archaeological Site, Sams Plantation Complex Tabby Ruins, Robert Simmons House, and Tombee Plantation are all listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Pretty darn good for one little island, don’t you think?
A local dish that residents of the Sea Islands have been enjoying for more years than anybody can count has become a favorite to some in other parts of South Carolina, and other states as well.
Frogmore Stew, created by the natives of the coast, has become a household favorite. This dish is a ritual for some as the main ingredient of their family “barbecue.” This folk dish is a highly seasoned stew of such combined ingredients as sausage and shrimp and crabs plus some other things like corn on the cob and potatoes.
The dish gets its name from a place that once had only a post office on one side of the road and a two-story white country store on the other. Frogmore is the mailing address (ZIP code 29920) for the residents of St. Helena Island, one of the few islands on the South Carolina coast that are still relatively undiscovered.
A Drive Through Frogmore
A day drive along the roads of St. Helena in South Carolina’s Lowcountry offers exciting original history, beautiful views, quaint shops and delicious food.
You can spend all day driving the mere 14 miles loaded with live oaks dripping with Spanish moss, glimpses of salt marshes and brilliant blue skies. You’ll meet the nicest people along the way and learn about the vibrant Gullah culture in a collection of historic buildings, known locally as “the corners community.”
Just down from “the corners” is another lovely historic building. Originally the Sea Island Cotton Exchange building, one of the front rooms used to be the post office for the area, it now houses MacDonald Marketplace. Now owned and operated by members of the Sanders family, this historic building has been completely restored and has a beautiful array of wares from local artisans.
Next door to MacDonald Marketplace sits the Bella Luna Cafe, featuring delicious Italian cuisine.They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner six days a week, and of course are closed on Sundays. Everything is made from scratch; nothing processed or frozen or from a can. They purchase all of their produce from the local farmers and their seafood from local fishermen and shrimpers. All desserts are “made with love,” featuring multi-layer chocolate cake, cheesecake and Italian gelato.
Just down from Bella Luna, past the red light sits Octopuses and Bellavista. They offer gift items, home decor, coastal accessories, gourmet foods, garden, bath, apparel, furnishings and other accessories. These two stores are owned by Lauren and Robbie Deloach. Lauren makes gorgeous furniture and is an accomplished artist. His furniture has a simple, powerful design and is in Bellavista nestled among the antiques and home decor items.
And, back down the road, across from the Marketplace, you will find the Foolish Frog, another great restaurant. They specialize in fresh seafood, smoked ribs and fire grilled steaks. They serve lunch and dinner…and they have an amazing Sunday brunch menu. They’re open year round, offering outside dining on their deck where you can enjoy gorgeous sunsets and local entertainment.
Brimming with history and simmering with culture and a cool vibe, St. Helena Island boasts 64 square miles of personality. Home to so many historic locations and the setting for lots of local cool spots and awe-striking views.
Being on St. Helena Island can be like going back in time. The island has a simpler feel, one rooted deep in the home. It’s a place where folks know each other and kids grow up playing outside. Stop for a chat at one of the fish markets and ask how the season is going. You’ll be met with the conversation you’re looking for. Stop by a roadside produce stand and learn about the local history of sweetgrass baskets or even learn how bottle trees are made.
Stories are free. That’s something that you will still find on St. Helena Island.