Monday, February 10, 2014

Sunday 2/9/2014 Bluffton SC

Weather vane in Bluffton SC

     Today was spent in historic Bluffton SC, and my guide for the day was Scott Londeau, a Navy Corpsman who has lived in Bluffton since 1978.  Along the way we also met Captain La Mar Moberly, a retired master mariner who is a life-long resident of Bluffton.  (The piece two days ago on the old church and the oyster shucking factory were also in this historic district.)

Scott Londeau (left) and La Mar Moberly

     Bluffton SC is one of those communities with a split personality - actually at least three distinctive ones.  It shouldn't be surprising - after all this community went through a ten-fold population increase last decade.  On one side of town is this historic district, and on the other are a bunch of plantations that have been developed "Hilton Head Style" behind a matrix of fences, gates and security guards.  Down the middle is a gash of big-box and national chain stores thrown up with various apartment complexes and neighborhoods sprinkled in.  In all the areas besides the historic district speed bumps, gates, fences and guard shacks abound.  Snow birds intent on rocketing the last few miles to the Hilton Head beaches zoom down the main avenue, cutting each other off in their mad dash to attain maximum speed between stoplights. 

     But as soon as you approach the historic district, you can feel the change in pace, tone and attitude.  Sitting on the bank of a sharp bend in the May River, it still has that "old town" flavor. And the new construction that has taken place has been done in a style true to the roots of the area.  Although many of the oldest houses have been converted into antiques dealers and restaurants, a few antebellum homes remain.  Even the old gas station sports antiques now.  

     It didn't help matters when one of Sherman's bands came through raping and pillaging in 1863 - all but ten of the houses were burned to the ground. The following house acted as a hospital during the "War of Northern Aggression" as the Civil War is referred to here.

     As you walk through the old district, folks still smile and wave as they drive by or take a bit to chat in rocking chairs on wide porches or over numerous white picket fences.  If you look closely off the side roads there are remains here and there of houses that once were.  Someone jokingly remarked that the local fire department has a 100% save rate on chimneys and concrete slabs.

     Houses of many eras line the banks of the river, and several tidal creeks meander into the community giving the perfect settings for kayaking and paddle-boarders.

     I like this lady's sporty hat, so you get two pictures of her.  Anyway, along this particular creek is a house referred to as "The Card House."  One of the story lines behind the house is that it was lost (won) in a game of cards some years back by someone in the Fripp family - Fripp as in Fripp Island.

     Another story line is that the house was shaped like a "card house" - as though it were built from a deck of cards.  

     A part of this area's recent history was a drug bust in the 1970's that swept up many of the town's citizens.  It is estimated that a BILLION dollars worth of dope was smuggled through here in the 1970's.  But, things finally caught up with the smugglers.  It turns out the ring was a group of local graduates from one of the state's college and it shook the community up pretty good.

     Along the river-bank are a lot of unique boat houses - a feature not seen on many piers in this area.  Here is one that caught my eye -

     Getting out onto the dock to get the photo meant I had to walk along the edge of someone's property, and although there didn't seem to be anyone home, I still was given an enthusiastic greeting.  The two dogs were quite the duet; I am surprised I got a photo of both of them with their mouths shut.

     And, on returning to my van, I got another greeting.  As I got in and started it, I heard a scratching noise.  Initially I figured it was branches on the roof in the wind, but a bird jumped on my shoulder, then my hand, and then onto the dashboard before he made his way out the window.  I managed a quick shot before he made it out.

     Then it was a quick trip up-river to Palmetto Bluff, a sort of quasi-gated community.  It has a guard gate but the public is allowed in to an old ruins and an old style village type area.  But there are many other gated and fenced areas that supposedly contain the area's biggest residences.  The "town square" has the remains of the Wilson Mansion, built in 1902 by some New York socialites but reduced to ashes in a fire in 1926.  But the bluff's history goes back much further - to Indian relics carbon-dated some 10,000 years and the original King's Grant on the property and to Admiral George Lord Anson in 1730.

     There is a neat little town here - it was getting toward dusk and I didn't have time to explore much.  Perhaps another day.  But I loved the windows with the huge storm shutters on this church, which stands right in front of the community dock.

     Then it was a quick run back around the bend in the May River to get a picture of the sun setting.  The dark area in the following photo is the same place where the above pier juts out.

     So, I hope you all had a great Sunday, and have a Happy Monday !!


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