Bluffton group raising money to replace historical sign

dburley@islandpacket.comDecember 7, 2013 

marker

This photo, provided by the Bluffton Historical Preservation Society, shows the town of Bluffton's historic marker that was demolished when it was run over in 2005.

SUBMITTED — photo

A Bluffton group is raising money to replace a historical sign on May River Road that was destroyed in 2005.

The town's Historical Preservation Society wants to buy a marker that would briefly describe the town's past and entice tourists to explore Bluffton, according to society executive director Maureen Richards.

"Because we're a walkable town, it's important visitors have the ability to stop and read a summary of the past events that have occurred here," she said.

Richards plans to buy the sign for about $2,300 from the state's historic preservation office, she said.

It would be white with black text on both sides and sit on a post that is 7 to 10 feet tall.

She's working with the town to find a central Old Town location for it, she said.

In a letter to Richards, town planner Erin Schumacher suggested a "highly visible" location owned by the town, such as the Tom Herbkersman Commons.

Richards said she's looking at sites on May River Road near the Nickel Pumper gas station. The old sign, erected in 1954, was on the road between Stock Farm subdivision and the Squat 'n' Gobble restaurant, she said. It was run over by a car in 2005.

Richards has wanted to replace the sign for some time. She says a recent influx of tourists makes the sign more necessary than ever.

After four lean years during the Great Recession, Bluffton is now attracting visitors in greater numbers, according to statistics collected by John Salazar, director of the Lowcountry and Resort Islands Tourism Institute and a professor at the University of South Carolina Beaufort.

That increase reflects a growing interest in historical travel among area vacationers, he says.

Salazar's tourism institute uses a virtual guidebook to survey visitors. The guest book is a touch-screen tablet that the institute sets up at tourist spots in the area. Visitors using the tablet picked "historic interests" as the most important reason to visit Bluffton.

From February 2012 to February 2013, 76 percent of the survey's 192 respondents said sites such as the town's eight ante-bellum homes were either important or somewhat important to their visit.

"The town's history is significant," Richards said. "It's our job to let people know. A sign would do it."

Richards has already received $1,000 in donations for the sign. She's searching for more.

Local author Jeff Fulgham is helping the cause.

He's donating some of the profits from the sale of his history book, "The Bluffton Expedition: The Burning of Bluffton, South Carolina, During the Civil War."

"Not only would a new marker be esthetically impressive to Bluffton's visitors, but it is imperative that a town of such historical consequence have a primary marker," he said in a news release.

To donate, call Richards at 843-757-6293.

Follow reporter Dan Burley on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Dan.

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