From left, Bluffton town councilman Harry Lutz, Town Manager Marc Orlando and Deputy Town Manager Scott Marshall are pictured after accepting the Municipal Achievement Award in July for the Town’s historic rehabilitation project of the Garvin-Garvey House

The Town of Bluffton recently received a Municipal Achievement Award for its historic rehabilitation project. Officials accepted the award during the Municipal Association of South Carolina’s Annual Meeting, held July 21 on Hilton Head Island.

The town won in the 10,001-20,000 population category. Thirty cities and towns submitted their projects and initiatives.

The Garvin-Garvey House, built in approximately 1870, is a rare surviving example of a home built and inhabited by a freedman’s family immediately after the Civil War – and the only one on the May River.

The town hired an historic preservation consultant to assess the structure and plan the project.

In 2008, the town took steps to stabilize the collapsing structure, which was overgrown with vegetation. In 2014, the town re-stabilized the house after weather and termites led to the natural deterioration of the initial measure.

During this time, a new foundation and flooring deck were installed. A reconstructed lean-to addition was built using the same framing techniques found throughout the original structure.

The project seamlessly wove together historic and new materials of the same dimension, exposure and thickness. The original interior wall boards, floor boards, roof rafters, shake shingles, trim and door were retained with all of the original finishes.

The town funded the project through grants, private donations and other public funds, and the town’s accommodations tax revenue.

Open to the public since 2017, the fully rehabilitated site offers insights into American history while bringing to life the Garvin-Garvey family experiences and Gullah-Geechee culture.

In preserving the Garvin-Garvey House, the town also created a model for future redevelopment projects on public land. At the same time, the project pulled together historical preservation organizations, state agencies, private citizens and cultural groups for support, funding and celebration.

“The project shows how to create a community unifier, an historic asset and a tourism destination from a single preservation project,” said Wayne George, executive director for the Municipal Association.

These winning entries represent innovative projects undertaken by Municipal Association member cities and towns. Information and a video about the project are available on the Association’s website (keyword: Achievement Awards).