Take a Walk Through the Beaufort Historic District
Many Beaufort, SC homes located in the historic district pre-date the Civil War, thanks in part to the fact that its citizens fled the city before Union troops made their way into town. Beaufort became the headquarters of the US Army, Department of the South. Most homes were converted into hospitals, offices and officer’s quarters. One home was even repurposed as a bakery.
The Beaufort historic district is a mix of Federal, Neoclassical, Greek Revival and Victorian styles. The city is also known for its widespread use of tabby construction, using oyster shells, sand, lime and ash to make an early form of concrete.
The house at 212 New Street was built by William Waterhouse for his wife. The piazzas of this late Victorian span across the eastern and southern sides of the house. The style of this house combines Queen Anne and Classical Revival elements of design.
The Thomas Hepworth House, located at 214 New Street, is long been referred to as Beaufort’s oldest house. Thomas Hepworth was Chief Justice of the colony. He acquired an original land grant in 1717, with a stipulation that a house be built within 5 years. The Dutch-influenced home has served as a residence, Republican Headquarters, a boy’s school and a meeting place for Masons. It was converted into apartments during World War II, then restored to a single-family dwelling in the 1950s. The Colonial two-story cottage is located in the heart of the Old Point. Rumor has it that the ventilation piercings of the tabby foundation (at the back of the house) were used as rifle slots to defend against Indian attacks.
The George Mosse Stoney house is located at 500 Port Republic Street. Dr. Stoney built the house for his wife Sarah Barnwell around 1823. Visible Greek Revival details were added around 1840. The street view has a small porch, but the side and back open with large porches to catch the river breeze. When first built, this house was only one room deep.
The Cuthbert Scheper Simmer House was built in 1820. It sits on a beautiful corner lot at 915 Port Republic Street. The house was built on a high brick foundation and originally one room deep. The house was expanded in 1875. During Civil War occupation, the Cuthbert family moved to Aiken and never returned to Beaufort. The Federal Army used the home as a bakery. Harriet Tubman baked bread here when she was stationed in Beaufort with the Federal Army. The house was changed in the 1870s with the addition of the second story veranda, a cupola, a storm entrance and a beautiful iron fence. The yard has a Victorian garden that still retains its original footprint. The house also contains a basement cistern that supplies water from 120 feet underground.
The Milton Maxcy Succession House, at 1113 Craven Street, is the spot where southerners first hatched plans for succession. The house was built in 1810 as a school for boys. Edmund Rhett bought the house in the 1850s and renovated it in the Greek Revival style. Edmund and his brother Congressman Robert Barnwell Rhett hosted gatherings of like-minded southerners in the house. During the Civil War the house was used as a hospital, officer’s quarters and paymaster’s office. Civil War scribblings have been discovered on the basement walls. Governor Carroll Campbell and US Senator Strom Thurmond added their signatures to the wall. Vice President George HW Bush added his signature to the wall in 1988.
The William Fickling House sits at 1109 Craven Street. It is believed to have been built in the 1790s when Mr. Fickling came to Beaufort to teach at a boy’s school. Another theory suggests it was built in the 1820s with renovations and additions being completed before and after the Civil War. The house is now the rectory for St. Helena Episcopal Church.
The W.J. Jenkins house sits two blocks away at 901 Craven Street. Built in 1845, this house is a good example of a finely proportioned Beaufort house. Union troops occupied the house during the Civil War.
The Beaufort Arsenal is down the street at 713 Craven Street. Construction began in 1795. It was designed to house a magazine capable of containing a hundred thousand weight of gun powder and a thousand stand of arms. The Beaufort Volunteer Artillery rebuilt the complex in 1852. This army was organized in 1775 and fought in every war fought by this nation including the Revolutionary War. The Beaufort Museum is in the building today. Two brass trophy guns captured from the British in 1779 are in the yard. The guns were seized by Union troops during the Civil War at the Fall of Fort Walker in 1861. They were returned to Beaufort around 1880.
The 500 Block of Craven Street contains charming examples of Victorian architecture. These homes were built in the 1880s and 1890s. The houses are nearly identical in design and ornamentation. Newly invented woodworking machinery was invented in the late 19th century and was implemented in the decorations of these homes.
The Castle is located across the street at 411 Craven Street. This house was built for Dr. Joseph Johnson in 1861. Some elements of the house were waylaid during the Union naval blockade. Bricks for the house were made on Dr. Johnson’s plantation on Lady’s Island. During the Civil War the house was used as a hospital. After the war Dr. Johnson reacquired his house for the sum of $2,000 in back taxes. The house remained in the Johnson family until 1981. The Italian Renaissance house is made of bricks covered in plaster. The house towers over an entire city block. The gardens contain hundreds of azaleas and camelias. Live oaks cover the yard as well. The garden also contains two ancient olive trees brought from the Mount Olives in the Holy Land.
The current house at 310 Federal Street was built sometime after the Civil War. It is known as Moorelands. It was built on the original tabby foundation of the home that burned in the 1890s. That home was used as a hospital during the war. The house sits beautifully against the backdrop of the Beaufort River.
The William Fripp House, or Tidewater is located at 302 Federal Street. It was built in 1830 by one of Beaufort’s wealthiest planters. He also owned more than 3,000 acres of land on St Helena Island with nine plantations. The home’s two-story portico faces the river to take advantage of the breeze.
Cassena sits at 315 Federal Street. Built in the early 1800s, the house was owned by sisters Ann B. Oswald and Mary Bell. After the Civil War the house was bought by a former slave of Mary Bell. The house remained in her family until it was severely damaged in the storm of 1893. It stood abandoned until 1898. The home was restored to its former glory.
The William Wigg Barnwell House sits two blocks away at 501 King Street. It formerly sat at the corner of Prince and Scott Streets until 1973. It was slated for demolition when the Historic Beaufort Foundation stepped in and saved the historic home. During the Civil War the house served as Union Hospital #4. The house stayed in the Barnwell family until 1895. The house next served as a school and apartment house. The house was purchased and restored by Savannah’s famous antiques dealer Jim Williams
411 King Street’s F.W. Sanders House was built in 1910 after the original structure burned in the Fire of 1907. Like so many of its neighbors, the house is built of heart-pine, but it contains mahogany woodwork.
Built in 1856, Little Taj stands proudly at 401 King Street. It looks out over a tidal basin The name refers to a modern reference due to the fact that a reflection of the house can be seen in the tidal pool across the road. The Beaufort style house was built to take full advantage of the breezes. A recent renovation revealed the corner supports of the house are made from limbs of trees that are six inches in diameter and were not sawed.
Located at 604 Pinckney Street, the Edward Means House was built between 1855-57. The brick mansion was used as Union Hospital #2 during the Civil War. The interior boasts marble mantles and a floating spiral staircase. The porches face south to capture the prevailing breezes.
The Paul Hamilton House, or the Oaks is located at 100 Laurens Street. Magnificent oaks shade the Italianate house that was built in 1855. Expansive porches wrap around two stories and three sides of this beautiful house. The house was abandoned in 1861 and used as Union Hospital #1. After the war Mr. Hamilton bid on his house and was given three days to secure the funds. He traveled to Charleston to do just that when his young son ran home to inform the family the home was going to be sold at sunset. Local citizens saved the day when they rallied to raise the funds to purchase the home in the name of Mr. Hamilton.
The Edgar Fripp House is commonly known as “Tidalholm” because the Beaufort River practically surrounds it. Located at 1 Laurens Street, this Italianate house was built in 1853 as a summer home. During the Civil War the home served as Union Hospital #7. According to family legend, when Mr. Fripp returned to Beaufort after the war, the house was being sold for taxes. He was regrettably unable to bid on the home. A Frenchman who was sympathetic to the South won the bid on the home. He then presented the deed to the former owner, then returned to France before the debt could be repaid.
The Berners Barnwell Sams House can be found at 201 Laurens Street. This home was built in 1852 with massive Doric columns and plantation-made brick. The flat roof is topped by a lovely balustrade. The Classic Revival home was used as a hospital during the Civil War. The dependency outback used to contain a cookhouse, blacksmith shop, laundry room, storeroom and servant’s quarters.
Elizabeth Hext House is located at 207 Hancock Street. Built in 1720, the house is considered to be one of the oldest homes in Beaufort. This early example of Beaufort architecture is set high on a tabby foundation. The house remained in her family until 1864, when it was sold by the US Tax Commission for $640.
The John Archibald Johnson House can be found at 804 Pinckney Street. This three-story house was built by Dr. Johnson in the 1850s. It was used as a hospital during the Civil War. The house sustained damage in the 1970s and slated for demolition when the Historic Beaufort Foundation purchased the property. It was resold to new owners who wanted to restore the historic property. The home reflects the prosperity of the time it was built. The wrap around piazzas can be accessed from multiple rooms, allowing breezes to enter the house in the summer.
The Robert Smalls House proudly stands tall at 511 Prince Street. Robert Smalls was born into slavery at this home in 1839, to the household of John McKee. At 12, Smalls was sent to Charleston, and remained there until the outbreak of the Civil War. He worked for the Confederacy on the CSS Planter. During a daring act of heroism, Smalls sailed the ship through the Charleston harbor to freedom. After presenting the ship to the Union Army he became a Union soldier. After the war he returned to Beaufort and bought the home where he was formerly a slave. After his return to Beaufort he was elected as the first African American Congressman.
The Daniel Hingston Blythewood House can be seen at 711 Prince Street. This house is another fine example of early Beaufort style. Mr. Blythewood was a British merchant and sea captain. He built this house in 1792 for his wife Elizabeth Taylor. She convinced him to give up life on the sea to become a Baptist missionary. The home is built on a tabby foundation and flanked with chimneys.
901 Prince Street is the site of the Frederick Fraser House. The 1803 home is built on a raised foundation and is fronted by double verandas. The exterior is made of brick covered in stucco and scored to resemble masonry blocks. The first-floor veranda is accessed by way of double stairs. A Palladian doorway accesses the second.
Beaufort’s lovely homes fan out in every direction from here. Take a walk and get lost on the beautiful streets framed in Spanish moss draped live oaks. Stroll through the church yards while you’re here. Bring the camera and capture the images for future viewing. Beaufort is sure to amaze you.
You can also read about the Architectural Treasures of Bay Street.