Making a Difference

Erika Lynn Bryant

Erika Lynn Bryant

Credit: Christopher Shane

South Carolina pageant queen Erika Lynn Bryant has walked her fair share of parade routes. But it wasn't until she appeared as Miss Pageland in the town's Watermelon Festival last year that Bryant spotted the Hotel Blakeney. "The windows were boarded up. It was this powder pink that looked like faded Pepto-Bismol," she says. "But for some reason it looked really majestic. I wondered, what's its secret? What's its story?" Bryant found that the abandoned 1907 inn was once a glamorous draw for visitors to Pageland, 45 miles outside Charlotte. After reaching out to the PalmettoTrust for Historic Preservation, she embarked on a campaign to save the Blakeney. "I'm usually getting calls from people my age or older," says Palmetto Trust Executive Director Mike Bedenbaugh. "And here was this vibrant young lady ... that was what was most impressive." Bryant has now adopted historic preservation as her community service platform. Thanks to her efforts, the Palmetto Trust has an option to purchase the Blakeney and sell it to a preservation-minded buyer. The 18-year-old even helped establish a local historic district this summer—making her the youngest person credited with writing an ordinance in Pageland history. Bryant started classes at the University of South Carolina in August but says she has no plans to end her involvement with preservation. "If we forget where we've come from, and the place we're striving toward, we're never going to get there," she says. "I'll be here until they kick me out."

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