A Boundary Street Civil War site used to park construction equipment and supplies will be cleared amid concerns from Lowcountry historians.
The property, adjacent to Wendy’s on Boundary Street, is part of what was a Union stronghold during the Civil War known as Battery Saxton. The city bought the land and demolished a body shop on the property to preserve the site and create a park.
Construction vehicles, concrete drainage supplies and mounds of dirt have been stored on part of the site during the ongoing streetscape project, separated from surrounding property by small black fencing.
An archaeological survey the city commissioned in 2003 for 1.27 acres of the property found no evidence of significant Civil War artifacts. The fencing represents the parameters from that survey, Mayor Billy Keyserling said Monday.
Historians, including a leading battleground expert, were nonetheless worried about the integrity of the site. So the city agreed during a meeting Monday to store its supplies at another Boundary Street location on June 14.
Federal agencies are required to review projects receiving federal money for possible harmful effects to historic sites eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. The Boundary Street project is being paid for in part by a $12.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation.
It is unclear whether such a review took place.
Battery Saxton is part of what was a line of earthworks from Battery Creek to the Beaufort River.
Some remnants of the mounds built to protect the Union troops remain, though some has been destroyed by past development. Much of the remaining historical significance could be in the ground, said Doug Bostick of the S.C. Battleground Preservation Trust.
“It could be compromised and could be further compromised when inevitable cleanup of the site is done,” Bostick said. ”Any time you put construction materials and heavy equipment on top of a sensitive archaeological site, that’s not a good thing.
“And I think in fairness to the city, given that there has been a business on that property before that was removed, I don’t think they understood the sensitivities of the property.”
Bostick met with city manager Bill Prokop, Keyserling and Beaufort County Historical Society president Mary Lou Brewton on Monday afternoon and decided to move the equipment and materials. Bostick volunteered to help.
“We said we bought the property, we’re extending the property, why would we want to ruin an asset?” Keyserling said. “We will gently remove the stuff to another site.”
The site was named for Union Brig. Gen. Rufus Saxton. Troops occupied the battery from 1862-1865.
In 1999, the Historic Beaufort Foundation added the tract to its list of endangered properties. The city deemed the property notable and made it subject to National Historic Landmark District standards.
The foundation unveiled a sign recognizing the property’s significance in 2004. The sign has been removed during the Boundary Street project but is expected to be replaced.