Architectural Treasures of Historic Beaufort’s Bay Street
The Beaufort Historic District has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1969. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1973. A city with this much architectural history is one you surely want to visit.
Beaufort, SC is a city rich in history and culture. Most of the 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. The city fell early during the war, surrendering on November 7, 1861. 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 re-purposed as a bakery.
The district is a mix of Federal, Neoclassical, Greek Revival and Victorian architectural wonders. 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 raised basements of many Beaufort homes are made from tabby.
Some of the most iconic homes in Beaufort can be found along the waterfront of Bay Street. These homes, found in the areas known as the Bluff and the Point, sit just across the street from the scenic Beaufort River.
1411 Bay Street is home to the E. A. Scheper House. This house is believed to have been built in 1896. Originally it had intricate gingerbread trim, which was popular in the Victorian period. The house was bought in 1938 and almost completely rebuilt. The exterior was transformed into a more neo-Colonial style that we see today.
The Edward Barnwell-Geddes Dowling House is located next door at 1405 Bay Street. This house has had a very interesting past. The house has been dated at no older than 1815. Union soldiers used the roof as a signal station to communicate with soldiers through the passageway of Port Royal Sound to the Atlantic Ocean. Edward Barnwell was the grandson of Colonel John Barnwell, also known as Tuscarora Jack. He was an Indian fighter and founder of Beaufort. Two brothers once lived in the house. Because of their hatred for each other, they divided the house right down the middle. The nail holes can still be seen today along the floor. The house was owned by Broadway actress Maude Odell Doremus in the 1920s. The house was next purchased by the McTeer family in 1937. James McTeer was known as the high sheriff of the lowcountry. He was a big fan of Gullah culture and was called the white witch doctor.
Continuing down Bay Street, the John Joyner Smith House sits next. The actual address is 400 Wilmington Street, but the house faces Bay Street. This Federal-style home was built in 1813. A Greek Revival remodel was subsequently done to the house. During the Civil War a Federal military commander occupied the house along with his staff.
This 1883 Victorian sits proudly among its statelier neighbors at 1307 Bay Street. The William Ritchie House was built by a foot soldier from Connecticut who came to Beaufort during the Civil War. While stationed in Beaufort, Ritchie fell in love with the town and decided to make it his home.
The General Stephen Bull House is located next, at 1305 Bay Street. This 1910 house sits high on the bluff overlooking the Beaufort River. The cast iron fence that surrounds the house is said to have been cast from Swedish ore.
The Charles Edward Leverette House sits next door at 1301 Bay Street. This home was built in the early 1800s. The home is named after Reverend Leverette, who was the last rector of Old Sheldon Church, which now lies in beautiful ruins between Beaufort and Yemassee. The home was confiscated during the Civil War, but Reverend Leverette was lucky enough to petition to have his property returned. He regained ownership and it remained in his family until 1920
The Thomas Fuller House is more commonly known as the Tabby Manse. It sits at 1211 Bay Street. This house is one of the finest early homes in Beaufort. Built in 1786, this home resembles the Miles Brewton House of Charleston. This home is a great example of tabby construction. This early building material composed of oyster shells and lime mortar was used to cover the home. Tabby Manse was built by Thomas Fuller as a wedding gift for his bride Elizabeth Middleton. The house was built on a raised basement to take advantage of river breezes. The house was converted to a guest house in the 1870s. Francis Griswold wrote A Sea Island Lady while staying in the house.
The Robert Means House can be found next, at 1207 Bay Street. The house was built around 1800 by a prominent Beaufort merchant and planter. The stately two-story veranda wasn’t added until the early 1900s.
The John A. Cuthbert House sits just down the street at 1203 Bay Street. Built around 1810, the house underwent significant remodeling in the late 1930s. The Federal-style house was given Victorian elements in the form of gingerbread trim and a south porch expansion. The house operates as the Cuthbert House Bed and Breakfast today.
The William Elliott House is commonly known as the Anchorage. This magnificent home at 1103 Bay Street was built around 1800. The double verandas are topped with a roof line balustrade. The house was used by Union troops as a hospital and was designated as the Mission House. The home was greatly altered in the early 1900s when stucco was added to the exterior. The Anchorage was threatened with demolition, but the Historic Beaufort Foundation stepped in to save it. Today this protected property serves as the Anchorage Bed and Breakfast.
The George Elliott House sits proudly on a corner lot at 1001 Bay Street. When originally built, the house had no upper veranda. The second story porch was added in the late nineteenth century. The three-story 7,980 square foot home is built on a raised basement. This stately home with massive columns was used as a hospital during the Civil War. Union soldiers were posted upstairs where they kept an eye on the harbor.
Just two blocks away sits the Verdier House at 801 Bay Street. This c.1804 Federal-style mansion was built by and named after John Mark Verdier, a wealthy merchant and planter. Verdier acquired wealth trading indigo, lost his money then revived his wealth by planting sea island cotton. This home served as Union army headquarters and the adjutant general’s office from 1861-1865. Today the house is open as a museum Monday – Saturday, from 10:30 – 3:30.
The Wallace House sits just steps away at 611 Bay Street. This 1908 home was built after the Great Fire of Beaufort in 1907. The fire was started by three boys, all under 10, who sneaked into a barn to smoke cigarettes. The wrought iron fence in front dates to the early 19th century. The brick home’s double verandas are accentuated with arched doors and window trim.
The William Joseph Thomas House can be found at 607 Bay Street. Built in 1909, this Victorian structure was built of concrete stone blocks from materials brought from Charleston. The two-story porches and large windows are positioned to catch the breezes coming off the Beaufort River
The Lewis Reeve Sams House sits on the Point at 601 Bay Street. This three-story 7,600 square foot Beaufort Style house was built in 1852. The double verandas are held up beautifully with Doric and Ionic columns. The beautiful house was used as a hospital and headquarters for General Rufus Saxon during the Civil War. According to local folklore, the house was spared from fire in 1907 by the efforts of the Waterhouse cotton gin workers. They extinguished the flames by forming a bucket brigade and using wet blankets. This house was also used in the movie Prince of Tides.
You can also read about More Architectural Treasures in Historic Beaufort.
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