5 things not to miss on the Historic Beaufort Foundation's home and garden tour

charley@beaufortgazette.comOctober 21, 2012 

  • The Historic Beaufort Foundation's Fall Festival of Houses and Gardens is Oct. 26-28. Tickets are $45. Details: 843-379-3331, www.historicbeaufort.org

Architectural styles over the past three centuries of Beaufort are the focal point of this year's Historic Beaufort Foundation's Fall Festival of Houses & Gardens.

The tour is the primary fundraiser for the Historic Beaufort Foundation, a nonprofit organization that works to preserve historic homes in Beaufort.

Here are five things to keep an eye out for on the tour:

1. Edward Barnwell House, 1405 Bay St.

During recent internal renovations, owner Geddes Dowling discovered the source of writing on the wall by Union soldiers during their occupation of the house during the Civil War.

It was known that the house was used as a U.S. Telegraph Office.

"We found this writing on the wall of the dining room that we could not decipher," said Dowling, an architect, who grew up in the home.

Recently he discovered that the writing was scripted code from the telegraph line that ran from the house to Hilton Head Island and Charleston.

"Because the Confederates did not give up the railroad line, their messages were written out in code," he said.

The rooftop of the home served as a signal station to alert others of incoming boats.

Recent studies of the nails in the home, show that it was built around 1815, not during early Colonial times as previously thought, Dowling said. During the first major renovation since 2005 under Dowling's direction, the old beams have been exposed to reflect the bones of the building.

2. Lucius Cuthbert House, 915 Port Republic St..

The navy blue trim on the shutters of the home of U.S. Navy Capt. Edward Simmer and his wife, Peg -- rather than the traditional Charleston green -- set this house, built in 1820, apart from other historic downtown homes.

The Simmers spent the past year restoring the home's roof and plaster in the house, which had extensive water damage. The house had been vacant for almost five years.

"This restoration brought this old house back to life," Peg said.

The dining room is accented with hand-carved woodwork. The basement features a large fireplace that was used as a bakery oven during the Civil War, and one of the last working cisterns in Beaufort.

"It is almost ready to be fully working to collect rainwater to be used to irrigate the yard," Peg said.

3. George Parsons Elliott House, 1001 Bay St.

After peeling back three layers of wallpaper, Beekman Webb of Beaufort, owner of the house and a local restorer, found risquè lead pencil drawings alongside names, battalions and hometowns of Union soldiers. During their occupation, the house was referred to as "Army Hospital No. 15."

This house was built in 1845 as a town house for Elliott, a rice plantation owner and a member of the South Carolina House of Representative.

4. Old Combahee Plantation

The only plantation on the Saturday tour this 1,206-acre former rice plantation on the ACE Basin in Colleton County greets visitors with a one-mile avenue of oaks. The plantation's gates have a design that is the outline of the Combahee River.

5. Kitchens & Cuisine tour

Two Sunday tours feature five homes downtown and on Lady's Island, where five chefs will serve regional specialties.

One of the homes is an award-winning 1947 Quonset hut made into a home by Jane and Michael Frederick.

The pre-fab metal building was named "Best Renovation" in 2009 by Southern Living magazine and it received an AIA South Carolina Robert Mills residential design award.

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Historic Beaufort Foundation

Old Combahee Plantation

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