Lowcountry Tabby Construction
Beaufort and its surrounding sea islands are home to the largest number of tabby structures in America. Early settlers in this coastal region built structures from materials that were readily available. Oyster shells were abundant along the shorelines. Wood was available in the forests. They were both put to good use.
Tabby is a type of early concrete that is made from mixing lime, sand, and oyster shells. The oyster shells were burned and mixed with sand and lime, then poured into forms to create walls and foundations that can still be seen in Beaufort today. Bricks were also formed from tabby and used for all manners of construction.
Beaufort’s sea wall was made from tabby. The exact date of the sea wall is undetermined. It was built to protect the low-lying area from high tides.
Fort Frederick was built by the British in 1730 to protect Beaufort’s Port Royal Sound. It was constructed of tabby. This is the oldest example of tabby in the country. The fort is preserved as the Fort Frederick Heritage Preserve and can be visited.
Tabby Manse, located on Bay Street is made from tabby walls that are two-feet thick. The Beaufort Arsenal is also made of tabby, but it is protected under layers of stucco. Originally built in 1795, the arsenal was rebuilt in 1852 and renovated in 1934. It is now the Beaufort Visitor Center and Museum.
St Helena’s Episcopal Church cemetery is surrounded by tabby walls. Many of the family plots are surrounded by smaller tabby enclosures. The church was constructed in 1842.
Many of the buildings along Bay Street were constructed using tabby. The foundation of the John Mark Verdier House is one example. Built in 1804, tabby construction can be seen on the first floor. The house is open as a museum. There’s an example of exposed tabby between two buildings in an alley on Bay Street that gives a close-up view of the materials that are combined to create the structure around 1760.
Beaufort County’s Old Sheldon Church Ruins show an example of tabby used as stucco to cover bricks. Built in 1751, the church was burned during the Revolutionary War, rebuilt, then dismantled after the Civil War.
Located on St. Helena Island, the Chapel of Ease is an excellent example of exposed tabby construction. Built in the mid 1700s, the tabby and brick is all that remains of a church that served the families of the island plantations. After the Civil War the church was used to educate freedmen. The church was destroyed by fire in 1886.
Edisto Island’s Botany Bay Wildlife Management Area is the home to the tabby ruins of Bleak Hall Plantation. Three Gothic Revival buildings are all that exist of the once sprawling plantation. A white, wooden ice house was constructed on a tabby foundation. A gardener’s shed and tabby barn also remain. Botany Bay WMA is open to the public.
Daufuskie Island’s Haig Point tabby ruins are among some of the best examples of tabby constructed slave quarters remaining in Beaufort County. Built around 1826, three of the best-preserved tabby walled, single slave dwellings are protected in the Haig Point development.
The Stoney-Baynard Plantation Ruins can be found in Sea Pines Plantation. Ruins of the tabby plantation house and the foundations of two slave cabins can be visited, along with the kitchen chimney. The house was built around 1840 and destroyed by fire in 1867.
All that remains of Fish Hall Plantation is three standing chimneys from slave cabins. This tabby is a little different. It contains clam shells in addition to oyster shells. Fish haul Plantation was built in 1762. The property was captured by Union forces during the Civil War and a portion was given to former c=slaves to develop the town of Mitchelville, the nation’s first freedmen’s village.
Sea Wall – Bay Street between Carteret and New Streets
Ft. Frederick – 601 Old Fort Road, Beaufort
Tabby Manse – Bay Street, Beaufort
Beaufort Arsenal – 713 Craven Street, Beaufort
St. Helena’s Episcopal Church 505 Church Street, Beaufort
John Mark Verdier House – 801 Bay Street, Beaufort
Alley Tabby – 715 Bay Street, Beaufort
Old Sheldon Church Ruins – Old Sheldon Road, Yemassee
St. Helena Chapel of Ease – 17 Lands End Road, St. Helena Island
Bleak Hall Plantation Tabby Ruins – 1066 Botany Bay Rd, Botany Bay WMA, Edisto Island
Haig Point – Daufuskie Island
Stoney-Baynard Plantation Ruins – 87 Plantation Drive, Sea Pines Plantation, Hilton Head Island
Fish Haul Plantation Ruins – 70 Baygall Road, Hilton Head Island