Our first task for this project was to develop a good understanding for the site and the neighborhood that contains it. I thought the logical place to start was the Corinne Jones park itself and so it was there I found myself this morning taking pictures and looking for anything significant or distinguishing. I began to wonder, “Who is Corinne Jones?” “Why is this playground named after her?” I was certain that this information could be found with a simple Google search but perhaps not. Maybe the identity of ‘Corinne Jones’ would be more elusive than one would expect? I decided to ask a man who was standing next to a City of Charleston vehicle and seemed to be coordinating the maintenance of the park. He told me that, “The park was named after Corinne Jones, who was a black lady who did a lot of good things for the neighborhood.” He didn’t have anymore specifics but he mentioned that City Hall had a plaque with her name on it and that they would be able to give me more information. I had never been to City Hall but I shouldn’t have been surprised that I had to walk through a metal detector and security check to get inside. After the security officer deemed me suitable to enter the same building where the Mayor works, I stepped into the elevator and eagerly awaited the unveiling of Corinne Jones. The Mayor’s secretary, who was both incredibly pleasant and helpful, disposed of all of her resources in an attempt to assist me. She contacted the Archives Department, the Parks Department and a few other potential resources until she became just as curious as myself as to who this ‘Corinne Jones’ really was. She took my phone number and promised to let me know of any information that she could find. Meanwhile another lady working there searched through the minutes from their last meeting and discovered that the supposed plague was recently moved to the third floor of Addlestone Library. Addlestone Library is a large building however, it didn’t take me long to search the entire third floor and realize that the plaque was no where on display. I rang the bell for the Special Collections department. I described the item I was looking for and after some time they brought forth “The Hall of Fame for Charleston Women” plaque. Corinne Jones was one the list, but the only additional information it gave me was her middle name Virgina and that she was not married.
I continued my quest further to the Historic Charleston Foundation and also the Preservation Society of Charleston before finally ending up back at my desk empty handed. After explaining what had happened to my fellow students I was advised to try a Google search. Apparently Google has been archiving old newspaper articles for quite some time now and to my complete surprise was now displaying those articles on my computer screen. 17 results to be exact for “Corinne Jones” Charleston. Although no biography was found (yet) we were able to piece together that Corinne Jones was the City Superintendent of Playgrounds and had been heavily involved in community activities. She is first mentioned in 1933 and was retired sometime in the 1950s. We are continuing to do more research on both Corinne Jones herself as well as the history of Wagner Terrace and the surrounding communities. One thing is for certain, Corinne Jones was committed to the development and the well-being of this community, and it is our goal to do the same as we continue working on this semester’s design build project.
Have you tried the Avery Research Center around the corner on Wentworth St.? It’s a part of the College of Charleston and is the center for the study of African American History and Culture in Charleston and the Low Country.
Also, try the South Carolina Room at the pubic library on Calhoun St. or the John L. Dart Branch on upper King St. near Wagner Terrace.
All of these have good resources on African American history in the Charleston area.
Corrine Jones was a single white woman who lived as a companion to my grandmother, Alice Rustin, on Grove Street. Jonsey, as everyone called her, had an office at the East Bay playground. Every week she brought me a children’s book and read it to me. She greatly influenced my love of books.
When my grandmother died in 1961, my mother helped Jonsey relocate to the Franke Home. Then, it was located on Calhoun Street. Momma took me there to visit her often.
I think Jonsey may have had Parkinson’s, but I’m not sure. I recall that her hand trembled.
I loved her very much.