Pon Pon Chapel survives Irma | News | The Press and Standard

by | September 30, 2017 5:00 am

Last Updated: September 27, 2017 at 11:28 am

During Hurricane Irma, at least two tornadic cells passed near Pon Pon Chapel of Ease. The Colleton County Historical and Preservation Society (CCHAPS) board worried about the effects on the chapel ruin.
Since Hurricane Matthew, dangerous trees capable of hitting the chapel had been removed to help protect the ruin, but the board is still concerned. The morning after the hurricane, Sarah Miller, society historian, visited the ruin and reported to the board that the ruin was still standing.
In the past year-and-a-half, changes have precipitated a new preservation plan for the property. The CCHAPS has been in contact with structural engineers to review the stability of the church, historic architects to document the property and preservationists to create a plan for future protection.
The society has been making minor improvements to the property for the last few years, including installing signage and security cameras. In 2014, a group of students from the College of Charleston/Clemson master’s degree program in historic preservation documented the site and offered a few suggestions, including removing some trees that might be dangerous to the ruin.
In 2015, the Savannah River Archeological Research Program used ground penetrating radar and a test dig site to investigate the location of the floor inside the chapel. The team planned to return in the fall of 2016, but Hurricane Matthew derailed their plans.
Although Pon Pon Chapel was the next big project for CCHAPS, some delayed effects of Hurricane Matthew necessitated more immediate action. The society board had agreed to remove 11 large trees to protect the chapel, and removal was scheduled for the week after Hurricane Matthew hit. Luckily, these trees did not fall; however, two other trees did. Miraculously, a large tree that uprooted and fell towards the chapel, barely touched the chapel with its top branches. Another tree fell from the woods behind the chapel and fell on the cemetery wall near the graves of O’Brien Smith and Adeanus Burke. Investigation found that the wall was still standing under the branches.
Unfortunately tree removal caused two major unforeseen issues. First, when the tree was removed from the cemetery wall, the mortar between the bricks had deteriorated and could not hold the bricks in place after the removal. Most of these bricks have been transported to storage for rebuilding or repurposing at Pon Pon.
The other concerning issue was a worsening of a crack in the concrete behind in the front façade of the chapel. The vibration of the ground during stump removal widened the crack and revealed that the stabilizing concrete was no longer connected to the front façade. This concrete was added after the rebuilding of the front façade that had been destroyed by Hurricane Gracie in 1959. This rebuilt wall is also secured by a large block and brace against a wall.
The Colleton County Historical and Preservation Society has received several quotes from professionals for a review of the structure and a preservation plan. This planning work will be costly and the preservation work will probably cost more than $100,000.
Those interested in working on a Pon Pon Chapel Preservation Committee or who can help with the fundraising efforts, please contact the CCHAPS office at 843-549-9633 or at info@cchaps.com.

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