The Bertha Lee Strickland Cultural Museum is located at 208 West South 2nd Street in Seneca, South Carolina. Construction began August 12, 2014 and was completed in July 2015 by Trehel Corporation of Clemson, South Carolina.
On November 19, 2015, the completion of construction was celebrated with the official ribbon cutting ceremony.
The museum concept began in 2008, as the brainchild of City Administrator Greg Dietterick. Upon learning about the African American higher education institute, Seneca Junior College, that was located in Seneca from 1899 to 1939, Mr. Dietterick realized that there was a “story to tell” about the local African American community.
In 2009, the City of Seneca purchased the property belonging to the son of Mrs. Strickland as plans for the Museum continued. Dr. John Martin, Director and Curator of the Lunney House Museum, arrived in 2009 and later became a champion of the museum project. He brought Mr. Dietterick's idea to many members of the local Black community and garnered the initial interest of the community for the project.
In 2012, Dr. Martin was introduced to Shelby Henderson who at that time worked for the Chamber of Commerce. Ms. Henderson took a strong interest in the Lunney Museum and became a volunteer which eventually led to her interest in the city’s plan involving the Strickland Museum.
Ms. Henderson drafted a proposal and presented it to the City of Seneca in 2013 requesting that a Preservation Group be approved to “ensure the integrity and authenticity” of the Bertha Lee Strickland Cultural Museum. The City Council approved the proposal and the Board of Directors on February 3, 2014 by unanimous vote. In November 2014, City Council approved the hiring of Ms. Henderson as museum manager with the responsibility of coordinating the Strickland project.
The Bertha Lee Strickland Cultural Museum is owned and operated by the City of Seneca. Seneca, South Carolina has a mayor-council form of government with eight council members and mayor elected at large for staggered four year terms.
Seneca’s history started in 1873 with an intersection of two railroad lines and our incorporation as a town. Since that time Seneca has become a growing community of families and friends. With a population of about 8,000, Seneca offers the community atmosphere along with the closeness of downtown businesses.
The museum bears the name of the late Mrs. Bertha Lee Strickland, a former Seneca resident who, around the age of 13, began working as a laundress for Dr. John and Mrs. Lilian Lunney of Seneca. She continued her service with Mrs. Lunney for 47 years eventually becoming her primary maid and caregiver until Mrs. Lunney's death in 1969.
In her Will, Mrs. Lunney left Mrs. Strickland the property and home where Mrs. Strickland lived on West South 2nd Street. Upon the death of Mrs. Bertha Lee Strickland in 1971, her daughter, the late Bertha Mae Strickland lived in the residence until the time of her death in 2003.
Left to right: Bertha Mae Strickland (daughter), Mrs. Bertha Lee Strickland, Milton Strickland (son)