- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 22, 2015

BLUFFTON, S.C. (AP) - The Town of Bluffton is working to preserve a 145-year-old house built by a former slave after the Civil War.

The Island Packet of Hilton Head reports (https://bit.ly/1DMSbBt ) that town leaders on Tuesday discussed the effort to preserve the Garvin House. The house was built by Cyrus Garvin in 1870 with materials spared when Union troops burned Bluffton during the Civil War.

The home is the earliest-known home owned by a freed slave along the May River. The town has hired Meadors Conservation to develop a five-year restoration plan. The work is expected to cost about $570,000.

The first phase could begin this spring and calls for stabilizing the foundation which has been damaged by termites. Then work will involve putting on a new roof and restoring the exterior and porch. Work will be done on the interior including adding air conditioning and electricity later.

Shawn Leininger, the town’s director of growth management, said the project is about more than just preserving an historic house.

“In this region of the country, historic preservation isn’t about charity work. It’s about economic development,” he said. “That’s how we get people here. That’s why people come here. When they come to a site, they stay to have dinner.”

Town staff and council members discussed possible uses for the restored house including such things as a Gullah bookstore, a short-term rental, a home for an artist-in-residence or a location to shoot films.

But senior planner Erin Schumacher said there are covenants in place on the property and the house may not be used for either commercial or residential uses.

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Information from: The Island Packet, https://www.islandpacket.com

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