Photograph taken by Hirsh
National Register Listing, 1995. Photograph courtesy of the South Carolina Department of Archives and History.
Photograph taken by Hirsh
Step back in time as you enjoy this antebellum summer residence of plantation owner John James Cole. After the Civil War the Cole family sold their holdings in Bluffton. The property eventually became the home of the Heyward family where they lived for five generations. The site is now a house museum and the Town of Bluffton Welcome Center managed by the Bluffton Historic Preservation Society beginning in 1998.
Step back in time when you enter this beautiful circa 1840 summer residence for local plantation owner John James Cole. This house has a typical Lowcountry farmhouse-style of architecture that was influenced by houses in the Indies designed to be cool in the summer. The style has large windows, a wide front porch, and piers to raise the house allowing airflow underneath. The house has a shotgun center hall and bookend chimneys on either end. The brick walk and fireplaces were made from Savannah gray brick. The heartwood pine floors and rough-hewn plank walls, likely built by Cole’s slaves, still remain. Behind the house stand two original outbuildings, a slave cabin and kitchen.
In the South, the kitchen was typically relegated to a separate building like the one behind the house here. (A separate kitchen reduced the chance of fire in the main house and had the added benefit of keeping the main house cooler in the summer.) Operated by slaves, the heat from the constantly lit hearth and heavy cast iron implements made kitchen work a grueling and exhausting daily task.
In the pre-Civil War era, one southern family in three owned at least one slave and families like the Coles, who ran large plantations, owned many more. When the Coles moved to Bluffton for the summer, they brought some of their slaves with them. A few of the enslaved workers who accompanied the Coles to Bluffton probably slept on the floor in the house while the rest lived in the cabin out back.
During the Civil War, Union forces destroyed most of Bluffton. However, ten antebellum homes and two churches remain today, including the Cole’s home. After the Civil War, the Heyward family rented and eventually bought the house. Five generations of Heywards occupied the house until the late 1990s, when the Bluffton Historical Preservation Society purchased it and opened the home as a house museum.
Guests can take a guided house tour, which includes the slave cabin and summer kitchen. Tour guests step back in time as they are presented a history of the town, the house, and its owners, and explore life in the Lowcountry during the 1800s.
The house, located in Bluffton’s Nationally Registered Historic District, also serves as Bluffton’s official Welcome Center. Click the link below for more information on touring the property.