CROSS KEYS — This fall will mark the 200th anniversary of the completion of the Cross Keys House and officials with the Union County Historical Society are hoping to have three new buildings currently under construction at the site completed by then for a double celebration.
Union County Museum Director and Union County Historical Society member Ola Jean Kelly said Friday that work is progressing on the construction of a colonial-style building that will provide bathroom facilities for visitors; a brick primitive kitchen; and a brick smokehouse. The new buildings are part of the society’s efforts to fully restore the antebellum character of the house which was built in 1814 while also making it more convenient for visitors.
Kelly said hopes are that the buildings will be completed and ready in time for the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the house’s construction.
“We’re looking forward to this fall,” Kelly said. “We’re looking at celebrations for two special events: the 200th birthday of the completion of the house and the completion of the three new buildings.”
Kelly said the buildings were designed by Martin Meek, who she called “the best historical architect in the Upstate, if not in the state.” She called the buildings “works of art” and said that Meek donated the designs in memory of the late Col. William J. Whitener, a long time member and supporter of the historical society who was serving as its President Emeritus at the time of his death in 2012.
During a recent visit to the Cross Keys House, Kelly said Meek made a discovery that will be incorporated into the brick primitive kitchen.
“He made a wonderful discovery next to the back door of the kitchen which is part of the house,” Kelly said. “We thought it was a watering trough for small animals, but on one of Mr. Meek’s visits to confer with the builders, he examined the item and it is now believed to be a Revolutionary period stone sink. It is so heavy it took motorized equipment to get it out of the ground. It will have a permanent home in the new kitchen.”
The Cross Keys House became part of American history in 1865 when it was visited by Confederate President Jefferson Davis, members of his cabinet, and their military escort as they fled south following the fall of the Confederate capital in Richmond, Va. to the Union army. Its historic nature has made it a popular attraction to a growing number of tourists who travel to Union County to visit and tour the house and its grounds.