Beaufort News

Best of Gerhard: There's plenty to know about old Custom House in Port Royal

(Editor's note: This was originally published on Dec. 28, 2003.)

Earlier in 2003, I had a telephone caller ask what I knew about the old Customs House on Paris Avenue in the town of Port Royal. My reply was “mighty little,” and I began looking for information.

Now, we know a little more.

In 1974, on the town’s 100th anniversary, a newspaper article stated that “two facilities in the town of Port Royal are about the same age as the town.

One is a white, two-story building on 10th Avenue (now Paris Avenue), which first served as the U.S. Customs Office and later as the Port Royal Lodge headquarters, but is now a bar known as ‘Sam’s Place.’ The other facility is the railroad, which was completed just before Port Royal was given its town charter (1874).”

Local writer Martha Ann Moussatos, in a 1977 article on the town of Port Royal, wrote of an “excellent bakery, which was housed in the still existing Masonic Lodge building. The bakery’s name was Campbell’s.” She also wrote that the building at one time was “where the Palmetto Post, a weekly newspaper, was printed. This was owned by S.H. Rodgers, grandfather of Ed Rodgers, Harbor Master.”

Another Beaufort Gazette journalist, Elizabeth Foster, wrote in 1984, “Around that time (1890), steamships transported goods to and from New York City and Liverpool. More than 100 ships would visit Port Royal in a year’s time and a shipbuilding yard was constructed at nearby Coffin Point.”

An 1883 volume, “South Carolina: Resources and Population, Institutions and Industries,” described Port Royal’s “3,000 feet of wharf space fronting Battery river, and the track of the Port Royal Railroad terminating here, runs along the wharves within 20 feet of the vessels’ berths …

“Five pilot boats attend Port Royal and St. Helena bars, with an average of three full branch pilots to each boat. Vessels requiring water, coal or wood can obtain them here. Towing facilities (are) ample. Towage rates are the same as in Savannah and Charleston.”

In a previous article, I wrote that “with the closing of the Customs House in Port Royal, Beaufort continued officially as a port of entry. Early in 1933, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt closed it, in his first administration.” Commercial use of the Port Royal Customs House dates to the 1880s.