Old Town Bluffton’s Historic Heyward House

Old Town Bluffton’s Historic Heyward House

Heyward House
Photo by Carmen Pinckney.

In the early 1800s rice and cotton plantation owners from the lower parts of the Lowcountry built summer houses on the high bluff overlooking the May River. This area is now called Bluffton. Away from the heat, mosquitoes and malaria, their families enjoyed the gentle breezes and the abundant seafood found in the river.

heyward house bluffton sc
Photo by Carmen Pinckney.

The Cole-Heyward House is in the heart of Old Town Bluffton. This excellent example of Carolina Farmhouse Style was built in 1841 as a summer home for a local plantation owner. The simple timber frame is reminiscent of a style of architecture brought over from the West Indies. It became very popular from the Colonial period up to the Civil War. Mr. Cole was a planter who owned Moreland Plantation located on present day Palmetto Bluff.

heyward house bluffton sc
Photo by Carmen Pinckney.

This house is one of only eight Antebellum homes that remain in Bluffton’s National Register Historic District. Designed and built by John J. Cole for his wife Ester Caroline Corley, the home served as a beloved retreat for the family to escape the disease and insects of their plantation. It also allowed the family to socialize with others living in town for the summer season.

heyward house bluffton sc
Image found on the Heyward House Facebook page.

The house was originally one half the size it is today. Mr. Cole and his slaves built the north parlor and bedroom above. By 1860 the family outgrew the space, so they had to add on to the structure.  Windows were enlarged and replaced. The original windows were reused in the dining room and back bedroom addition.

heyward house bluffton sc
Image found on the Heyward House Facebook page.

Mr. Cole contracted tuberculosis and died following his service in the Civil War. After his death the family sold the house and moved to Texas. The house was owned briefly by Kate du Bois, the wife of the postmaster.

heyward house bluffton sc
Image found on the Heyward House Facebook page.

The house was then purchased by the Heyward family. George Cuthbert Heyward purchased the home in the 1880s. He was the grandson of Thomas Heyward, Jr, a statesman and signer of the Declaration of Independence. Five generations of this family lived in this house until it was sold in 1998 to the Bluffton Historical Preservation Society.

heyward house bluffton sc
Image found on the Heyward House Facebook page.

The Heyward House has not been altered over the years. The house has been preserved, not renovated since its additions in 1960. The interior walls and floor are made of wide heart pine boards. The site also has an original slave cabin and a reproduction summer kitchen. Both outbuildings can be found behind the house.

heyward house bluffton sc
Image found on the Heyward House Facebook page.

The original unattached summer kitchen was pulled down and replaced in the 1930s with a large square attached kitchen. The materials from the original kitchen were repurposed to build a small garage on the property.

heyward house bluffton sc
Image found on the Heyward House Facebook page.

The Heyward House is operated by the Bluffton Historical Preservation Society and open to visitors as a museum and welcome center. The Society purchased the Cole-Heyward House in 1998 from Mrs. D. Hasell Heyward. Tours of the antebellum house and former slave cabin began almost immediately after purchase.

heyward house bluffton sc
Photo by Carmen Pinckney.

A reproduction of the original unattached summer kitchen was constructed beside the slave cabin. The kitchen is outfitted with early American furniture and tools. It also has a brick floor. The house museum and its outbuildings were designated an official project of the Save the America’s Treasures program.

heyward house bluffton sc
Image found on the Heyward House Facebook page.

In 2000 the house became the official Welcome Center for the Town of Bluffton. According to their website, “The Cole-Heyward House is a continuing preservation project that provides a rare glimpse into antebellum life and offers educational opportunities to thousands.”

heyward house bluffton sc
Photo by Carmen Pinckney.

Monday – Friday: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Saturday: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Tours are not offered during the last hour of operation.

Heyward House
70 Boundary Street
Bluffton, SC 29910
(843) 757-6293

For more information on this and other Bluffton attractions visit https://southcarolinalowcountry.com/bluffton-area/

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The Lowcountry & Resort Islands Region of South Carolina includes the four, southern-most counties in the state, Beaufort, Jasper, Hampton, and Colleton, which are bordered on the east by the Atlantic Ocean and on the west by the Savannah River and the state of Georgia.

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A visitor takes a leisurely stroke under a canopy of live oaks draped with Spanish moss in the Palmetto Bluff (palmettobluff) neighborhood of Bluffton, South Carolina. Palmetto Bluff is a picturesque community that sits in the heart of Lowcountry. Nestled along the May River, it’s abundant with beautiful walking trails, historic sites, and stunning views.⏰ Best time of the day to visit: There is no wrong time to visit Palmetto Bluff. However, we highly recommend sticking around for one of their spectacular sunsets.🛶 Things to do while there: Stop by Cole’s for some regionally inspired Southern fare, paddle board, kayak, or canoe along the May River, go saltwater fishing, take a tour at Bluffton Jack's Old Town Tours.🌊 Things to visit in the area: Palmetto Bluff Conservancy, Old Town Bluffton, Bluffton Oyster Factory Park, May River Sandbar, Heyward House Museum and Welcome Center (heywardhouse).📆 Best time of the year to visit: For the best weather, we recommend visiting between March and May or from September to November.🏨 Where to stay: The Montage Palmetto Bluff Resort (montagepalmettobluff) is the only resort in Palmetto Bluff. However, there are plenty of places to stay in the surrounding areas including: Old Town Bluffton Inn (oldtownblufftoninn), The Inn & Club at Harbour Town (theinnandclubatharbourtown), Sonesta Resort Hilton Head Island (sonestahhi).Photo by jpgriceoz
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