Bluffton Packet

When the old walls talk in Bluffton’s storied ‘deer tongue building’

Bluffton's old "deer tongue building" after it had been converted into a restaurant on May River Road.
Bluffton's old "deer tongue building" after it had been converted into a restaurant on May River Road. Staff photo

I was really excited this morning when I went out to feed the cats. This little chore is usually done around 6 a.m. every morning. There are three feral cats and one of ours who refuses to come in the house no matter the weather. I have to be very careful around the wild cats and not make eye contact. If I do, they run off.

Well, this morning was a treat because there was a breeze and it was coolish, which reminded me that fall is near. I walked out to the street to get the paper and I started thinking about smells in Bluffton. This time of year there are certain aromas I look forward to. The smell of a roaring fire and oysters roasting. Tea olive trees in bloom are really divine. And deer tongue .... a plant native to the Lowcountry used long ago in perfumes, medicines and Prince Albert tobacco.

Many of our area residents would gather the deer tongue for Mr. Mulligan, a broker who then stored it in his big tin building before it was baled and shipped off. The “deer tongue building” was located where the Dispensary is now on the corner of Lawrence and Calhoun Streets.

Joel Bailey bought the building and moved it to his property on May River Road. Sherry Donaldson had a feed and seed farm store in it for a while. I heard that Joel wanted to sell his property, which I had always loved, so Don and I, along with Laura and Jim McIntosh, bought it.

Laura, Jenny Kelly and I had an antiques store there for several years. The thing I remember most was the wonderful smell of the deer tongue that still lingered after all those years. There were even old burlap bags upstairs that had been used in the shipping process . The biggest drawback while we had our shop was that we no heat in the winter, and it was rather uncomfortable.

I loved the property. We had a grape arbor, a charming little cottage built early in the 20th century that we rented to a commercial landscaper, and lots of land that we grew vegetables on, and several fig trees. Laura and Jim had wanted to move to the mountains for some time, so the decision was made to sell our place.

Roberts Vaux bought it, moved the “deer tongue building” over to its present location, remodeled it and there Pepper’s Porch restaurant was born. Roberts won an award from the Bluffton Historical Preservation Society for his efforts. The Vaux Marscher Berglind law firm is now in the little white cottage.

Mr. Mulligan’s house on Calhoun Street has become “The Cottage,” a wonderful little cafe-tea room that has won lots of awards for the food and pastries they offer.

I guess I am getting a little nostalgic, but since 1978 I have been watching Calhoun Street evolve, which is fine with me ... but ... I miss the old days sometimes and all of my friends who lived in the transformed houses.


Shrimping season is on tap so here is an easy recipe for you to try.

Huger Cove Shrimp

1 stick sweet butter

3 white onions, chopped up

2 cups heavy cream

1 TBS curry powder

1 TBS Wondra flour

Salt and pepper to taste

2 pounds cooked, peeled shrimp

Melt butter ... cook onions in butter until soft. Add cream. Stir... Mix curry powder with flour and slowly stir into cream ... Add shrimp ... Simmer for a few minutes. Serve over wild rice. Serves 4-5.