Bluffton, South Carolina, is a history buff’s personal paradise! Between Civil War-era landmarks that still stand today to Gullah-Geechee points of interest, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time. One of the best places to immerse yourself in Lowcountry history is the Garvin House in Old Town Bluffton! Below, we’ve listed everything you need to know about it. Add this historic house to your itinerary, then be sure to reference our complimentary Bluffton Vacation Guide for more local insight!
All You Need to Know About the Garvin House
While visitors may not officially tour the inside of the Garvin House, they are welcome to pass by, take photos, and learn about the property’s rich history. This structure is located less than a mile away from Old Town Bluffton Inn. It takes only 12 minutes to walk to this historic spot!
A Freedman’s Home
Formally referred to as the Garvin-Garvey House, this unassuming structure got its name from a “freedman,” a former slave released into society. Cyrus Garvin— who also went by the surname “Garvey”— built the home on the property of Joseph Baynard, his former owner. The Baynard house burned to the ground during a Union attack on the town of Bluffton in 1863, leaving the property unowned. The Garvin House now stands in the exact spot Baynard’s house once stood—overlooking the shimmering May River. Garvin purchased the 54-acre land in 1878 for $239.70. Today, Beaufort County owns the stretch of land.
A Family Affair
Despite the trying times of Reconstruction (placing immense pressure on people of color), Garvin had the rare opportunity to live a relatively comfortable life on his land. He was an active member of the Bluffton community and, when the time came, he passed the property down to his son, Isaac. In the early 20th Century, the family hosted social events in their home where “dainty refreshments were served and dancing indulged in until a late hour” (Savannah Tribune 8.19.1905). Isaac’s wife, Jenny Garvin, was the last known resident to inhabit the house. She passed away in the 1950s, leaving behind a legacy of prominent African American heritage.
Other Ways to Enjoy Bluffton History
Go on a Gullah Heritage Tour
The “Gullah Heritage Tour” typically refers to a curated, miniature road trip between Hilton Head Island and Charleston, South Carolina. Along this stretch of marshland—located along “The Gullah-Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor”—you’ll encounter multiple stops meant to preserve the Gullah way of life and educate visitors.
Visit the Heyward House
The Heyward House is not your typical welcome center. It is one of eight antebellum homes still standing in Bluffton, South Carolina. It was originally built for a local plantation owner as a summer escape. The Heyward House is a great place to learn about Historic Bluffton and even offers a full tour of the area!
Old Town Bluffton Inn: The Lowcountry’s Newest Landmark
If you and your loved ones are searching for a new and refreshing way of vacationing, you need to experience Old Town Bluffton Inn, the Historic District’s newest addition (and only boutique hotel). Our gorgeous, locally-owned inn is located just steps away from historic gems like the May River and Garvin House. When we built the inn, we considered all aspects of Bluffton’s historical and cultural roots. You’ll love waking up to the luxurious details of your guest room, which boasts nods to Old-World Bluffton. Plus, our premium amenities (like complimentary breakfast selections, luxurious toiletries, and on-site wine bar) will make you feel like part of our town’s unique story! Whether you visit for a fun festival or to simply soak in your surroundings, there’s a fantastic experience waiting for you here at Old Town Bluffton Inn.