In the late 1840s, a young minister, Reverend Newton Pinckney Walker, saw the need for deaf education in South Carolina. His wife, Martha Hughston Walker, had three siblings who were deaf and had no opportunity for education in South Carolina. Rev. Walker traveled to the Georgia School for the Deaf where he learned teaching methods for individuals who were deaf.
School for the Deaf
On January 22, 1849, Rev. Walker opened a school for five children who were deaf and a small group of hearing children at Cedar Spring in Southeastern Spartanburg County. The school was housed in a hotel building located on the present campus. In the early years, the school was the private property of Rev. Walker, but the expenses became too great and Rev. Walker convinced the State Legislature to take over the school as a state-supported institution in 1856. The Legislature also allocated $30,000 to construct a building which later became known as Walker Hall, the school’s signature building.
School for the Blind
During the first few years of the school's operation, Rev. Walker saw the need for educational opportunities for children who were blind. In April of 1855, a department for blind children was added to the school with James S. Henderson, a graduate of the Tennessee School for the Blind, as principal.
Cedar Springs Academy
In 1977, the Cedar Springs Academy opened to serve children who were either deaf or blind with additional disabilities.
SC School for the Deaf and the Blind Foundation
A private fundraising arm was established in 1979.
In 1984, a relationship was created with 12 local school districts to begin delivering outreach services to their students through educational staff of the School for the Blind. Since that time, outreach services have grown to form a statewide division, including early intervention, vision and hearing services in the public schools, the deaf-blind project, a braille and large print instructional materials distribution center, a child development center, sign language interpreters, and sign language classes.
In 1985, a home intervention program for pre-school children, from infancy to age 3, was established. In 2017, the program was expanded to include 4 and 5 year olds.
Career and Technology Education
The vocational facility opened in 1984, providing opportunities for students to learn valuable employment skills. Local businesses partner with the school to provide work-based learning opportunities.
Cleveland Learning Resource Center
In the 1990’s, increased emphasis was placed on the use of educational technology, and 1996 saw the opening of the state-of-the-art Cleveland Learning Resource Center as the result of a $3.2 million partnership. The new resource center included state-of-the-art technology, a student library, and a parent/professional library.
SC Instructional Resource Center
The SC instructional Resource Center opened in 2002. The center serves as the distribution center for braille and large print textbooks for all eligible students in South Carolina. The resource center is a collaborative effort between the SC Department of Education and the SC School for the Deaf and the Blind.
Hughston Transition Living Center
The new Hughston Transition Living Center opened in 2004. The center is designed so all students, regardless of disability, can live there self-sufficiently. The goal of this center is to facilitate students in learning how to live independently. The building is named in memory of John M. Hughston, the first graduate of the SC School for the Deaf and the Blind. He was also the first deaf person to be named the school's superintendent.
The Handicapped Athletes Learning to Enjoy Riding (HALTER) program moved to its new home on the school’s campus in 2006. HALTER is an affordable therapeutic horseback riding program that has served handicapped residents of Spartanburg (and surrounding counties) and students at the South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind since 1987. (HALTER now stands for Healing and Learning Through Equine Relationships.)
An early childhood development center named in honor of Marcia Hastay Kelly was dedicated in 2007. The center, located on the school’s main campus, is a partnership between the SC School for the Deaf and the Blind and the Spartanburg County First Steps Early Head Start program. Kelly’s Kids serves children that are six weeks to three years of age who are blind, deaf, or sensory multi-disabled, as well as children who are typically developing.
The SC School for the Deaf and the Blind dedicated a new sports complex including a 320-seat fully accessible stadium, concession stand, press box, and equipment storage building in 2010.
The Herbert Center Construction/Renovation Project was completed in October of 2011. The project included additional classrooms, a therapy pool, dormitory space, office space, a new sprinker system, an expanded infirmary, improved independent living, and a residential media room. The gymnasium, cafeteria, and building ramps were renovated, and important safety and energy improvements were included.
Colson Outreach Center
The school reopened a Colson Outreach Center in 2015, in a new location. Budget constraints had forced the original center to close in 2010. The new center retained the Colson name in memory of Millie and Johnny Colson who committed their lives to assisting individuals who are deaf or blind.
Fluor Field House
Donors raised funds to construct the school's first athletic field house, which opened in 2015.
Cedar Springs Museum
The school's alumni completed a full renovation of the Cedar Springs Museum in 2016. It reopened with new exhibits, new information, and a new look in August.
All of the school’s playgrounds were replaced in 2016 and 2017 through contributions to the school’s foundation. Specifically designed for children who are disabled, the playgrounds feature ramps, wheelchair swings, bench swings, tactile walkways, and more.
I Love You Sculptures
Fine Arts students created three sculptures under the direction of Bob Doster in 2017-2019. The completed sculptures are five feet tall and feature cut-out handshapes to form the “I Love You” ASL sign. Two of the sculptures were placed in Spartanburg and Columbia with plans to place the third sculpture in Charleston.
SCSDB’s first makerspace opened in 2018 and was named Einstein’s Workshop. Funded by the school’s foundation, the workshop introduces students to career opportunities in science, technology, electronics, and math (STEM). It is equipped with materials for students to practice robotics, electronics/circuits, coding/software, and environmental concepts.
Applied Academic Building
A new Applied Academic building and the renovation of existing facilities were completed in 2018. The Applied Academic Center prepares students for jobs or continued education upon graduation. Students are introduced to career opportunities and work experiences with a goal for every graduate to be “College or Career Ready.”
Located on 160 beautiful acres four miles from downtown Spartanburg, the SC School for the Deaf and the Blind campus now includes 31 buildings including classrooms, libraries, vocational training centers, dormitories, and recreational facilities.