New future for historic Bluffton home

Updated: May. 21, 2021 at 12:48 PM EDT
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BLUFFTON, S.C. (WTOC) - When Union forces set fire to Bluffton, S.C. in 1863, much of the town’s history went up in smoke. Ten antebellum structures survived the flames and are still standing today, but one of them needs to be rescued again.

The Squire Pope Carriage House on Calhoun street sits in the center of the Old Town Bluffton and at the head of the newly opened Wright Family Park. The waterfront home is in a prime location but far from pristine condition.

“This is going to be something that we look at and say wow, what a really neat place that shares some of the history of Bluffton,” the town’s Senior Planner Katie Peterson said.

The home was built around 1850 by Squire William Pope of Hilton Head. The two-story house was originally two outbuildings for the main Squire Pope House, located nearby. The main house was destroyed in the 1863 fire but the carriage house and a cottage were left untouched. Squire Pope’s wife and daughter returned to the property, moved the two buildings together and it served as the family home for years.

The home changed hands several times in the over the next decades until the Wright Family took ownership in the 1950s. Over the years, the house hosted weddings and family gatherings. It also underwent some renovations and additions.

“When you look at the history of the structure you see that there were modifications that were made during antebellum, postbellum, several during the Victorian stage, and then there were a bunch in the early and mid-20th century,” Peterson said.

The Wright Family continued to use the property as a vacation home until 2007, but then it sat empty for most of a decade until the town of Bluffton bought it and the property in 2017.

“When you deal with a structure that’s been sitting here for as long as this one has been you don’t know what you’re looking at,” Peterson said.

The town started by clearing the land and creating Wright Family Park along the May River. Plans to restore the house are underway to create a future legacy for this connection to the town’s past.

The town of Bluffton is hosting a Historic Preservation Symposium, “Squire Pope Carriage House: Discovering the Past, Planning for the Future,” on Thursday, May 27 at 5:30 p.m. Seating in the Town Hall’s auditorium on Bridge Street has reached its capacity, but the symposium will be available to view in a livestream online here.

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