The Town of Bluffton was incorporated in 1852 as a “one square mile” summer coastal retreat town. This one square mile is commonly referred to as “Old Town” or the Historic District.
Shortly after the town’s incorporation in 1852, two churches and 15 residences survived the “Burning of Bluffton” during the Civil War on June 4, 1863. This general area is designated as a local historic district and was recognized as a National Register District in 1996 -with 54 contributing structures, or structures or sites of significance.
The National Register District includes the area south of Bridge Street along the May River bounded by Verdier and Heyward coves to the east and west and a portion of the Calhoun Street corridor. The local district was designated to include the National District and surrounding properties.
The town recognizes and appreciates the rich history through several programs and initiatives. In 2005, the Town along with the assistance of a consultant and citizen input started the process of adopting and implementing the Old Town Master Plan.
This plan acts as a guiding document for future development, redevelopment and planning projects moving forward. In addition, the Town’s Historic Preservation Commission reviews all projects in the district.
There are many opportunities to participate in historic and cultural events and activities. The Town, along with partnerships with local organizations provide educational opportunities, tours, lectures, research and festivals for citizens to participate.
With the partnership of the Bluffton Historical Preservation Society (BHPS), there are several programs and educational opportunities available to learn more about the history and character of this special place. This includes tours of historic homes and structures; the Heyward House, home of BHPS which serves as the Town’s Welcome and Historic Center; the Garvin-Garvey House, a recently rehabilitated Freedman’s Cottage on the May River; and walking tours of the district.
If you are interested in researching a historic property, the Heyward House is a great place to start, as they house a great deal of records in the Caldwell Archives.
The Town is also a partner with Celebrate Bluffton, which is an organization that provides assistance with the preservation of Bluffton’s heritage through advocacy, research, education and community involvement, including the creation of the Bluffton Buddy app.
This is an application for electronic devices that is used to supplement the physical experience of historic and cultural sites through a virtual tour of stops along the Heritage Trail.
Other programs include a lecture series that focus on various topics facilitated by knowledgeable historic preservationists, community leaders and other scholars that occur on a regular basis and are listed on the Town’s calendar of events.
I always say that you have to know where you came from to know where you are going, and all of the above are the keys to all of us understanding the history of our town.
This is very important in planning our future, and it refreshing to see how many different groups are forming to help us on the historical side.
Along with those mentioned above are A Call To Action, Campbell AME Church and others. Please take time to see what each of these groups has to offer and consider joining as a member of one or all of them.
Lisa Sulka is the mayor of the Town of Bluffton.