Beaufort, South Carolina
The charming seaside town of Beaufort, South Carolina, is known for its rich local history, natural beauty, and Southern hospitality. Affectionately called the "Queen of the Carolina Sea Islands," Beaufort is located on an intercoastal waterway in Port Royal Island, one of the large sea islands off the southeastern Atlantic coast of the United States. It is the second oldest town in South Carolina, and the entire downtown area of Beaufort is in the National Register of Historic Places. The Point section of downtown is also a National Historic Landmark District. Over 90 historic structures, many of them stately antebellum mansions, churches, and old war forts, are interspersed with fine little eateries, art galleries, antique shops and boutiques. Horse-drawn carriages clatter down the streets. The town serves as the seat of Beaufort county.
History of Beaufort, South Carolina
Traces of the area's first inhabitants, the Archaic Indians, date back 4,000 years. The first Europeans landed in 1514 in Spanish galleons. In the two centuries following the Spanish landing, settlement attempts were made by French Huguenots (1562), British settlers (1670), and Scottish Covenanters (1684). They battled the Spaniards for claims to the coastal region, as Yemassee and Tuscarora Indians fought to protect their native land. The British won out in 1711, when they built a fort and founded the town of Beaufort, named in honor of Henry Somerset, second duke of Beaufort, England (1684–1714).
Occupied by invading forces during the American Revolution, Beaufort survived, and its plantation economy enjoyed great prosperity in the 18th century. Exports of indigo, rice, and particularly Sea Island cotton brought tremendous wealth to the area prior to the Civil War. Its colonial landmarks survived the Civil War, Beaufort being one of the few towns occupied by Union troops and not destroyed.
Beaufort's antebellum atmosphere is still intact, as are its many historic landmarks, including an Episcopal church (built in 1724 and later remodeled) and the arsenal (built c. 1798) that now houses the Beaufort Museum.
Economy of Beaufort, South Carolina
Shrimping, truck farming, cattle raising, light manufacturing, lumber milling, and tourism contribute to the Beaufort area's growing economy. Though still a quaint, small town with a population of 12,950, the population of Beaufort has nearly doubled since 1970.
Beaufort County has had the largest population percentage increase in the state of South Carolina, from 86,425 in 1990 to 102,735 in 1996. This growth is expected to continue, as new residents are drawn by sea island development.
In addition to its historical and natural attractions, the area is home to three major military installations – the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in Parris Island, the Marine Corps Air Station, and the Naval Hospital – vital to the local economy.
Climate and Location
Beaufort is blessed with warm, coastal weather, allowing residents to enjoy outdoor activities and dining almost year-round. The climate is temperate. Though the winter months can get a bit chilly, the fall, spring and summer months are warm, with average temperatures in the mid 60s.
Beaufort is located 75 miles south of Charleston, SC, 55 miles north of Savannah, GA, and 40 miles from Hilton Head Island, SC. The community is surrounded by beautiful coastal marshland and is located only minutes away from 30 miles of some of the south's most beautiful, clean beaches.
Recreational venues include boat landings and marinas, fishing, public parks, several championship golf courses, tennis courts, tours and nature-based recreation.
In 1959, the building that had housed Beaufort College (1795–1861) became the administrative centre of the Beaufort campus of the University of South Carolina. Beaufort is also the home of the Technical College of the Lowcountry, which traces its origin to the Mather School, founded in 1868. In addition to its institutions of higher education, Beaufort is served by a strong mix of public and independent schools.
Special Events in Beaufort, South Carolina
The legacy of the Beaufort region's African-American population, drawn from a hundred African tribes, is commemorated in cultural museums, historic sites, and the Gullah Festival, when African-American culture and heritage is celebrated with art, music, dance, and food. The Penn Center, a National Historic Landmark, was founded for the education of newly freed African-Americans during the Civil War. The Water Festival, the town's other famous annual event, dates from 1956 and features parades, sports, street dances, water shows, and entertainment.