Thomas Hepworth House – 214 New Street, Beaufort SC

Built in: between 1717 and 1722
Rebuilt in: 1760

This house has long been referred to as the oldest house in Beaufort with a construction date of 1717 cited. This date is possibly far too early, with stylistic evidence suggesting a construction, or reconstruction, date of circa 1760. It is documented that Thomas Hepworth, Chief Justice of the Colony, acquired an original grant for the property in 1717 that carried a stipulation that a house be built within five years. Hepworth sold the property to Thomas Burton in 1741. Subsequent owners included the Barnwell, Deveaux, and Johnson families. Writing in 1871 of the War of Revolution as it affected Beaufort, Dr. John A. Johnson stated: “The only remaining memorials of that war within our present view are the two redoubts in the north western suburbs and the little Dutch house on the comer of Port Republic and New Streets.” He continued: “At the close of the last century (eighteenth) an early cotton gin was invented and the first one was exhibited in the large front parlor of the antiquated Dutch-looking building at the south west corner of New and Port Republic Streets, to the moderns known as Republican Headquarters.” In the early 1800s William Fickling conducted a private school for boys in this house. It later served as a meeting place for local Masons. During World War II, the house was converted into apartments. The house was restored to a single family residence by Mr. & Mrs. Somers Pringle in the 1950s. The house is a Colonial two-story cottage with a side porch. Its roof lines are simple gables broken by side dormer windows. A local tradition that ventilation piercings on the north side of the tabby foundation were intended as rifle slots for defense against Indian attack is without documented basis. The floor sills are hand hewn from whole trees adzed to 16 inches. The chimney is seven feet square set on a footing but finished to give the appearance of four chimneys. The origin of the attached stair tower to the south has not been established, but it is known the house was extended one bay to the east (toward New Street) between 1884 and 1899.

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