Poynor School (Wilson School)

The Poynor School, photograph by Robert Thomas Mckenzie Jr, Wikipedia, CC-BY-SA 4.0

Location: 301 S. Dargan St., Florence, SC 29506

Today, this building houses the Poynor School, but it was once the original location of the Wilson School. The Wilson School was built in 1866 as a segregated school for African American children residing in the Florence County area. The first records of the school date back to November of 1869, when it still bore the Wilson name and was located at the corner of Dargan and Palmetto Street. The school was likely named for the Methodist Minister, Reverend Joshua Wilson, who was an early principal of the school. As the years went by, Wilson became known as one of the most outstanding schools in the entire state. However,  the building was torn down in 1906. A new school was built on Athens Street in 1917, where prominent African Americans were in attendance, such as William H. Johnson, who you will learn about more on this tour. The school moved a final time in 1982, where Wilson High School still exists today on Old Marion Highway. 

In the place of the original Wilson School, local architect William Wilkins erected Poynor Junior High School at this same spot on Dargan and Palmetto Street in 1908. Poynor is the oldest school building still standing in Florence County and is the building that you see before you. Poynor is two stories high and built in a Neoclassical Georgian Revival style, which means that the building features lots of symmetry and classical detailing. When looking at the building head-on, you’ll notice the uniformity of the windows, columns, and other features. The school was even used as the location of a banquet held for President William Howard Taft in 1910.

In May of 1983, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places and remains an important piece of Florence’s history to this day. Nowadays the building houses an adult education center and has been used to host recitals, concerts, tournaments, fundraisers, and other events. This location’s historical ties to education are undeniable. Further, it reminds us how the African American community of Florence persevered in their efforts to provide learning opportunities for their children. 

To learn more about this historic site residing in the heart of historic downtown Florence