Garvin Garvey House Tour Bluffton
Tour the Garvin-Garvey Freedman’s Cottage: Tour the home constructed and owned by African-Americans in Bluffton during the Reconstruction Era. This rare property is open for visitors to experience the history of the family and the rehabilitation of its structure. Sometimes this property is referred to as The Garvin-Garvey House.
Cyrus Garvin, a Freedman, built the GARVIN HOUSE on the property which possibly was his former owner Joseph Baynard. Baynard’s house was burned down during the Union attack on Bluffton on June 4, 1863, and the GARVIN HOUSE stands on the exact location where the residence had been located, on a bluff overlooking the May River. Garvin purchased the land, 54 acres, from the Estate of Esther Box on May 10, 1878, for $239.70. The house now sits in a parkland owned by Beaufort County.
Guided tours of the Garvin-Garvey Freedman’s Cottage located on the High Bluff in Oyster Factory Park are available on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 am – 4 pm and on Fridays by appointment. Reservations are not required for guided tours on Tuesdays or Thursdays unless you have a group of 10 or more. Tours last approximately 30 minutes and are offered as visitors arrive unless previously scheduled.
Children under 10: Free
Phone: (843) 757-6293
Location: Bluffton Oyster Factory Park 63 Wharf St, Bluffton, SC 29910
History of Cyrus Garvin
Cyrus Garvin was an African American Freedman born in 1856, who played a significant role in the development of Bluffton, South Carolina. He built the Garvin House in 1874, a historic building that has stood as a testament to the African American experience in Bluffton.
Garvin’s parents were slaves on a plantation in Bluffton, but he was born after the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, which declared all slaves in Confederate territory free. Garvin and his family stayed in Bluffton and he grew up working as a laborer and carpenter.
In 1874, Garvin built the Garvin House on what was then known as Boundary Street, now called May River Road. The building was a two-story, six-room house that Garvin built using his skills as a carpenter. The Garvin House was the first brick building in Bluffton and became a landmark in the town.
Garvin was an entrepreneur and a respected member of the Bluffton community. He owned a general store and a barbershop, which were both located in the Garvin House. Garvin’s general store was the only store in town that sold goods to African Americans, and his barbershop was a popular gathering place for the town’s black residents.
Garvin’s impact on Bluffton extended beyond his businesses. He was involved in local politics and served on the town council for many years. Garvin was also a member of the local chapter of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), a fraternal organization of Union veterans from the Civil War.
The Garvin House continued to serve as a residence and business location for Garvin and his family until the 1930s. In the following years, the building changed hands several times and was used for various purposes, including as a school, a church, and a community center.
TIMELINE (Text Credit Town of Bluffton)
1863 June 4, 1863, summer home of Joseph Scott Baynard burns down during Union attack on Bluffton.
1868 Cyrus Garvin becomes a registered voter and his name can be found in the Beaufort, SC
1868 Voter Registration – Bluffton Precinct list. 1868 February 27,
1868, Cyrus Garvin submits an application to be appointed employer over 26 Freedmen on Montpelier Plantation with approval of Ephraim M. Baynard – owner of the plantation. 1870 Census records shows Cyrus Garvin listed as a 49-year-old farmer living with his 41-year-old wife Ellie and 12-year-old son, Issac at this time. He owns real estate valued at $250.
1870 Cyrus Garvin likely builds current structure the land where Joseph S. Baynard’s summer home once stood.
1878 Now known as Cyrus “Garvey” he deeds land, which he bought from Dr. Paul Pritchard, and an edifice to St. Matthews Baptist Church Trustees. 1880 Censusrecords shows Cyrus Garvin listed as 60 years oldman with wife Ellen, son Isaac, daughter-in-law Jenny, and grandson Paul. 1890 June 24,
1890 Cyrus buys for $450 Joseph S. Baynard’s land, where his house was built 20 years before.
1891 Cyrus buys property from the State of South Carolina making his current property contiguous with the May River.
1891 Title of property transferred to son, Isaac Garvin.
1914 Title of property transferred from Isaac Garvin to his son Paul. 1961 Property transferred to John SamuelGravesIII. 1970 Property owned by Bluffton Oyster Cooperative.
1985 Property transferred to Bluffton Oyster Company. 2001 Property acquired by Beaufort County Land Trust.
2004 Beaufort County entered into a partnership with the Town of Bluffton to share in maintaining Oyster Factory Park and its resources.
2008 Beaufort County and Town of Bluffton stabilize the Garvin House.
2014 Beaufort County and Town of Bluffton initiated Structural Plan and Updated Preservation Plan for the Garvin House.
2016 Restoration process commenced using Grants from Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism and Department of the Interior and Historic Preservation. The Town now maintains Oyster Factory Park.
2017 Restoration work completed and The Garvin House will soon be open to the public.