The Anchorage House is believed to have been built prior to the Revolutionary War, but it’s impossible to determine the actual year of construction. Elaborate Corinthian style columns and haint blue ceilings impress onlookers at 1103 Bay Street in Beaufort SC. As was common in the 1700’s, the building is composed of tabby concrete, a mixture of sand, oyster shells and water. Oyster shells were burned to create the binding agent lime, and the mixture was poured into tabby cradles and compressed. After the cement hardened, the molds were removed to reveal the first section of tabby wall. Tabby probably originated with the Spanish & was used extensively in the southeast coastal region of N. America, but the use of tabby declined after the Civil War.
Leading up to the Civil War, William Elliot owned the house. He was pro-southern, but opposed secession, making him very unpopular with his fire-eating neighbors, the Rhetts. While Beaufort was occupied by Union soldiers during the Civil War, it was called the Mission House and used as a hospital.
The “Anchorage House” got its nickname from Rear Admiral Lester Beardslee who owned the home from 1891 until his death in 1903. According to local tales, the admiral loved Irish Whiskey, but his wife was a teetotaler and would not put up with this habit.
As a result, he sent Mrs. Beardslee on a shopping trip to England while he spent $80,000 renovating the house. At that time, the upper level porch was added, and the porous tabby walls were covered in stucco to help preserve the oyster shells. Finally taking advantage of his wife’s absence, the admiral added hidden compartments in the basement walls.
Years after his death, renovations were done in the basement where the wall compartments were found containing fine Irish Whiskey. There’s no documentation for what became of those bottles, but it’s generally assumed that the construction workers had quite a party that night.
When this home was opened as a restaurant, servers claimed they felt an unseen entity push them on the stairs when they were carrying trays of drinks. Before falling, they felt a mysterious support steady the tray. It must have been Mrs. Beardslee trying to upset the demon drink and the admiral intervening to save the alcohol!
In the background of this photograph is the Anchorage in the aftermath of Hurricane Gracie in 1959. Gracie was a category three storm which hit Beaufort at low tide. In 1971, the Anchorage was in poor shape and facing demolition, but it was saved by the Historic Beaufort Foundation.