For Immediate Release
December 08, 2023
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The National Trust for Historic Preservation

(BPRW) National Trust for Historic Preservation Purchases Robert Smalls House

(Black PR Wire) The National Trust for Historic Preservation announced today that the organization has completed the purchase of the Robert Smalls House from owners Billy and Paul Keyserling. The Smalls House is a National Historic Landmark in Beaufort recognized for its most well-known resident--the Civil War hero, South Carolina businessman, and politician Robert Smalls.

The former owners - Billy Keyserling, former Mayor of Beaufort, and his brother Paul - purchased the home to create greater understanding and appreciation for Smalls’ exceptional story and have held the property for the last two years.

“The National Trust thanks the Keyserlings for championing the life, story and legacy of Robert Smalls,” said Jay Clemens, Interim President and CEO, National Trust.

As part of the purchase, the National Trust will work cooperatively with the Historic Beaufort Foundation to maintain the home’s architectural integrity, resolve issues related to making the property publicly accessible, and continue its use as a private residence. The Historic Beaufort Foundation and the Beaufort community recognized the historic and architectural significance of the Robert Smalls House by nominating the property to the National Register of Historic Places and by including it in the nomination of the Beaufort Historic District. More than two decades ago, Historic Beaufort Foundation accepted a preservation and conservation easement further protecting the National Historic Landmark.

To complete this purchase, the National Trust’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund received support from several donors including corporations, foundations, and individuals. The National Trust looks forward to working alongside the Historic Beaufort Foundation and other preservationists to safeguard the character and integrity of this historic place. Together with local partners, organizations, and the Beaufort community, the National Trust and its partners look forward to using our historic preservation expertise to continue to ensure the life and legacy of Robert Smalls remains a source of inspiration and education.


Robert Smalls was born into slavery in 1839 and grew up in the house at 511 Prince St. owned by his enslaver, Henry McKee. After a heroic military career, Smalls bought the house where he was born enslaved. He lived there for 51 years, until his death in1915, and the house remained in his family until it was sold by his descendants in the 1950s. In 1974, the house was designated a National Historic Landmark and in 2022 was listed on the Reconstruction Era National Historic Network. In 2023, the Navy renamed the guided missile cruiser Chancellorsville as the Robert Smalls. This summer, Gov. Henry McMaster signed a bipartisan bill establishing the annual Robert Smalls Day. All 46 S.C. senators have proposed displaying Smalls’ portrait in the Senate chamber, and a House bill has been proposed to erect a statue of the great patriot on the Statehouse grounds.


The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded nonprofit organization, works to save America’s historic places. | @savingplaces

Source: National Trust for Historic Preservation