There may have been a time when preservation was about saving an old building here or there, but those days are gone. Preservation is in the business of saving communities and the values they embody.- Richard Moe, National Trust for Historic Preservation

Stabilization & Rehabilitation of the Garvin-Garvey House

As anyone involved in the preservation, restoration, or rehabilitation of historic structures will tell you, the projects never go exactly as planned and usually take longer than expected; however, in the end, if successful, the irreplaceable is protected to educate and inspire future generations for years to come.


The importance of the Garvin-Garvey House was first brought to the attention of Town in 2003, when the Director of the Bluffton Historical Preservation Society, Mr. Robert Jones Jr, forwarded a report written by Kathy Seyalioglu (PDF). This document spurred interest in the structure and efforts began to understand the condition of the building and what it might take to save it.


In 2004, Beaufort County, the owner of the property, entered into a partnership with the Town of Bluffton to share in maintaining the Oyster Factory Park and its resources - this included the Garvin-Garvey House. Around the same time, additional research into the history of the structure and the family was conducted by Maureen E. Bergin (PDF) in a thesis submitted in February 2004 to the Savannah College of Art and Design. This research built upon the earlier study and began to lay out a strategy for stabilization. 

2007 & 2008

A Structural Assessment and Report by Moulton Clemson Jones, Inc. for the building commenced in 2007. Efforts to stabilize the Garvin-Garvey House were initiated by the Town and began shortly afterward. In 2008, the building that had previously been collapsing was lifted and placed upon a cribbing block with steel I-beams running the length of the building to support the second story.


In 2009, The Living History Group (PDF) authored a Preservation and Interpretation Plan for an 1870 Freedman's Home. In this document, the existing condition of the building was documented and a plan for preservation and interpretation was drafted. Following this work, the economy across the United States, including the Lowcountry, took a downward turn during the Great Recession. As a result, plans for implementation of the Preservation Plan sat idle and the structure continued to deteriorate.


In 2012, with an upswing in the economy and a renewed interest in the preservation of the site, the Town of Bluffton's Town Council allocated funds toward the project. Due to the continued deterioration of the structure and the cribbing upon which it was supported, the structure had to be re-stabilized to make it safe to inspect and assess. Once the structure was re-stabilized, Meadors, Inc. (PDF) was contracted to perform an updated structural analysis, updated preservation plan, and to prepare construction drawings for the rehabilitation of the structure. 

Their team analyzed the building framing, materials, and historical information. They performed paint analysis, a nail chronology, and other building forensics to determine which parts of the structure were constructed first and which were later renovations. Meadors, Inc. conducted public meetings with the community to gain additional insight into the site's history and to learn how members of the community wanted to see the site reused.


Once the report and drawings were finished, Town Staff, presented it to Town Council for adoption and with their support, Staff moved forward with seeking grant funds and initiating the first phases of the rehabilitation project. 

In 2015, the Town was awarded a Federal Historic Preservation Grant administered by the Sout Carolina Department of Archives and History and an Undiscovered South Carolina Grant administered by the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism. These grants allowed the project to move forward much more quickly than initially planned. They permitted the full rehabilitation project began rather than just the permanent stabilization. 


In 2016, the Town contracted Michael Riffert with Construction Consultants to embark upon the rehabilitation project. Later this same year, a second Federal Historic Preservation Grant was awarded to help fund the work on the exterior envelope. A private donation was given by Eugene and Melanie Marks to fund the State of South Carolina's historical plaque and other site signage. 

Melanie Marks (PDF) also donated her time and expertise to research the genealogy of the family providing information and data for the interpretation of the site. Through the hard work and dedication of many invested individuals, the Garvin-Garvey House has finally come to fruition and will stand as a lasting legacy in the community showcasing the power of preservation and its ability to bring a community together to protect the irreplaceable.