One of Bluffton’s oldest structures could soon get a facelift thanks to a partnership between the town and Beaufort County.
The two entities will buy a plot of land on Calhoun Street in Old Town, and on that property sits the Squire Pope Carriage House.
The structure, which overlooks the May River, was built around 1850 and served as part of a summer home for “Squire” William Pope, a Hilton Head Island plantation owner and state lawmaker, according to Bluffton Historical Preservation Society documents.
The main home — along with most of the buildings in town — was burned during the Civil War, but the carriage house remained intact.
Never miss a local story.
“It certainly has a great deal of historical importance to the fabric of the community.” Preservation Society director Anthony Barrett said Friday.
The town and the county recently approved the purchase of the roughly 1.3-acre property at 111 Calhoun St. The agreement between the two splits $1.5-million purchase price evenly, with the town taking on the primary responsibility for upkeep.
Bluffton’s portion of the cost comes from hospitality tax revenues while the county’s portion will be paid for with voter-approved Rural and Critical Lands Program bond funds, according to the agreement.
The property, which is expected to officially change hands in June, has been owned by members of the Wright family for decades. Tax records list Augustine Wright as the current owner.
Town leaders have considered purchasing the land for years and “have built a 10-year or more relationship” with the family, Bluffton Mayor Lisa Sulka said Friday.
The Wrights have been approached in the past by developers interested in buying the land, but the family “wanted (a buyer) who would promise to keep and preserve” the historic carriage house, she said.
The town plans to do just that.
Much like the soon-to-be-complete project at the historic Garvin House in Oyster Factory Park, the town plans to stabilize the carriage house and rehabilitate the interior and exterior.
Sulka said the ultimate goal is for the restored building to join its Calhoun Street neighbor, Church of the Cross, on the National Register of Historic Places.
But that could take a while, she said.
Restoring the building to its past glory is “going to be very costly, and we are going to have to work slowly and diligently,” Sulka said.
The town and county also plan to add a new public park with access to the May River to the property.
Providing more public access to the river makes it easier for people to “touch it, feel it, smell it,” Barrett said. “It’s a really personal connection people get with the river.”
Sulka agreed, saying the town prioritizes projects that “celebrate the river.”
The new park would help “open up the river” to locals and Old Town visitors who may not have access to a private dock, she said.