More than a century and a half ago, Sarah Gibbes Barnwell, the youngest daughter of Revolutionary War general and state senator John Barnwell, built the Beaufort home where the unusually independent woman lived the rest of her life.
It was a simple design with spacious rooms and decorative flourishes that remain to this day, aspects that drew new owners Erica and John Dickerson to the home at the corner of Charles and Craven streets.
Sally Gibbes Barnwell was best known as "Aunt Sally Jack," to avoid confusion with the other Sally Barnwell in town, according to Historic Beaufort Foundation records. She was the only one of the five Barnwell children who never married; she lived alone until her death on Independence Day, 1866.
When asked why, she would say, "So that I may go to bed Missus and get up Boss!" according to the foundation's file.
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"She had a level of toughness," John Dickerson said.
Dickerson and his wife are seeking information about Aunt Sally Jack and her home while renovating it into a single-family home. They eventually want to install a plaque outside to inform residents and visitors but need more information.
During the Civil War, federal troops took the building over and called it the Ordnance Office.
The Sally Gibbes Barnwell house is one of several in what the Dickersons see as a movement to renovate and restore former downtown Beaufort homes and use them as they were originally intended.
Ed and Peggy Simmer paved the way last winter when they bought the Scheper house at 915 Port Republic St. They undertook a historic restoration and are now living in it.
"The Port Republic house is the one that started it and they set the tone," John Dickerson said.
Plans are being considered for two other 18th century homes in the area.
The interest in renovation in the area has made it easier to work with banks, he said.
"We have so much commercial space downtown but just don't have this kind of residential," Erica Dickerson said.
In the late 1990s, local historical preservationist Beekman Webb bought the building and fixed it up. It was used as a store and for offices but has been vacant for several years.
The Dickersons expect their renovations will take about three months. They intend to do short-term rentals for tourists and possibly live in the house one day.
The first and foremost rule is to do no harm to the circa 1850s structure, they said.
Some aspects of the house will be left just as they are. Roman numerals were discovered carved into window sills. A fan of handmade blades in the entryway arch will not be touched. The Dickersons said as much of the original material as possible will be preserved.