Donor gives $75k to move former slave’s home

When the Saltzgiver family first moved to their 10-acre country lot in Newberry 20 years ago, there was a double-wide trailer and a tiny wood house on the property that is adjacent to Dudley Farm Historic State Park.

That roughly 400 square-foot home belonged to Rebecca and James Perkins, former slaves who bought the 40 acres and raised their family there.

The history of Dudley Farm is lacking in telling the whole story of Dudley’s ownership and transport of slaves to the area from South Carolina—and of who farmed the land.

Helen and Phil Saltzgiver and their family members have spent time living in that tiny home that has a brick fireplace and heavy wood beams supporting it. There’s a loft upstairs that once was reachable by a ladder and served as the bunk area, according to Helen, who teaches at Newberry Elementary School.

Fireplace in the Perkins home near Dudley Farm

Newberry Mayor and history teacher Jordan Marlowe approached the Saltzgivers about adding that home to the Dudley Farm experience.

They decided to donate the structure to make sure visitors of the latest national historic landmark displayed a complete story of its history, including how African American families brought to the area as slaves went on to find their own success in farming, raising families and running businesses as generations strived to rise above what their ancestors experienced.

The process of moving the house just a few hundred feet west to join the farm is a complicated one, Marlowe said.

But with the help of Roy Hunt, a UF emeritus law professor, and a committee of experts, that process is going to happen in the next few months.

Loft at Perkins home

Marlowe said Hunt gave him the names of area experts in history, architecture and preservation, which led to the development of a committee that has joined efforts with the state to relocate the Perkins homestead.

“It’s been an incredible learning curve for me,” Marlowe said. “The folks that are on this committee are some of the top names in historical preservation in the state of Florida.”

The cost of moving the home was estimated at $75,000, and Marlowe said an anonymous donor has given that amount to the cause—plus an extra $10,000 to help with other expenses.

“We’re hoping we have enough money that not only can we move and re-site the house but also to help the state with signage and maintenance costs to really make a nice memorial that will tell the story,” Marlowe said. 

Marlowe said historic preservation experts will come in and strip any updated changes to the house to “take it back to how it originally stood.”

Then historians will photograph the home and an archeology team will use ground penetrating radar to see what’s under the foundation. They will then excavate discoveries before the house is deconstructed and rebuilt on the state park property.

Jordan Marlowe

With the anonymous donation, Marlowe said the process could be finished by spring 2022.

Helen Saltzgiver said experts—construction, historians, architects—have been visiting the home each week.

“They’re documenting exactly how it looks right now,” she said.

She said she hopes the house is moved just over the property line so that she can still see it from her yard.

“That’s the whole reason I bought this property,” she said of the Perkins house. “Could I just be able to see it?”

Back view of the Perkins home
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