Verdier House to be restored, undergo technology upgrade

emoody@beaufortgazette.comMarch 10, 2014 

The Verdier House in downtown Beaufort will undergo some changes that will not only preserve its past but prepare its future.

The Historic Beaufort Foundation, which houses an education center and exhibits at the 19th-century home, is raising money for the projects.

It first plans to renovate the ground-floor visitors center, last remodeled in the 1970s, according to executive director Maxine Lutz.

Although the floor gives visitors the feeling of stepping back in time, it's not the time period the foundation wants to present.

"It's very dated," she said. "And we also feel that when people come into the basement, it doesn't enhance their experience because it is dark; it has worn-out carpet and low ceilings."

The foundation is seeking a $4,800 accommodations-tax grant from the city to help with the renovations. An advisory committee has recommended it receive the money.

Renovations are expected to cost $8,000 to $10,000, Lutz said, but that estimate could change. Sometime in the early 20th century, a doorway was cut into the foundation for a tavern or cafe, and it will need to be checked to ensure there are no structural problems as a result.

For its next project, the foundation plans possible digital media tours of the house, which the board thinks will appeal to younger visitors.

A golf tournament April 4 at The Legends at Parris Island will raise money for the project, which does not yet have a cost estimate. Lutz intends to speak with history experts from the Beaufort area about collaborating on the project.

The digital media tours will also ease the burden on the all-volunteer docent staff at the Verdier House. About 10,000 people visit annually, according to the foundation's accommodations-tax grant application to the city.

The Verdier House first opened to the public as a museum in 1976, according to the historic foundation's website. About two years ago, the focus shifted toward exhibits and showcasing other local history attractions, not just the house, according to Beaufort Gazette archives.

According to the S.C. Department of Archives and History, the house was built in about 1804 by John Mark Verdier. In 1861, the mansion became the headquarters for the Union adjutant general.

In 1940, it was condemned and scheduled for demolition so a gas station could be built, but a group of residents -- which eventually became the Historic Beaufort Foundation -- bought and restored it.

The Verdier House was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in August 1971.

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