One must be in awe of a man – former slave – who was able to live, work and prosper in the period from 1865 to 1877 when uneasy reconstruction was tense for all involved. - An excerpt from "The Journey of a Freedman’s Family"
The Garvin-Garvey House is located at the intersection of Bridge Street and Wharf Street within the “Old Town” district of Bluffton, South Carolina. The structure dates to 1870 and is an excellent example of Carolina Lowcountry vernacular architecture of the late-19th century. The building was constructed during the Reconstruction Era; a historic period rarely represented architecturally due to the impermanence of the construction methods and materials.
The house utilizes a combination framing technique using indigenous materials to create an original hall-parlor plan with shed extensions. Traditional building techniques in the structure include hand-hewn timbers and notching and Anglo methods introduced through Union occupation of Hilton Head Island (milled lumber and fabricated materials).
The floor plan constitutes a 20th century, Georgian modernization of the common hall-parlor folk house, modifying it into a more refined I-house plan. The Garvin-Garvey House is believed to be one of the earliest known freedmen owned houses still extant on the May River. The residence remained in the Garvin family for three generations until 1961.
The structure remained in private hands until 2001, when the Beaufort County Land Trust acquired the house and property. In 2004, Beaufort County and the Town of Bluffton entered into a partnership to share the responsibility of maintaining the Oyster Factory Park, which includes the Garvin-Garvey House. The house has the potential to become a centerpiece of interpretation for the park due to its extreme rarity as a home constructed and owned by African-Americans in Bluffton during the Reconstruction Era.