Perched atop a "high bluff" running beside the May River, Bluffton, SC is extremely proud of its history and charm. The high bluffs welcomed strong southerly breezes that provided refuge from the heat of the local plan tation environments. Located directly before the bridge that links it to Hilton Head Island, Bluffton is a short drive for visitors to stroll back-in-time.
In the early 1800s, the first dwellings were built in Bluffton, South Carolina and by 1830 it had become a summer haven for many as well as the home to many plantations. The May River provided a transportation source for the new residents as riverboats from Savannah would deliver goods on a weekly basis. The history of the area includes the American Yemassee Indians and the Lords Proprietors of the Carolinas. The town was incorporated in 1852.
The cries of succession in the South were first heard in Bluffton in 1844 as the town became a center for political rhetoric. During the Civil War, Hilton Head Island was occupied by Union forces and Bluffton was abandoned. Eventually the town was pillaged and burnt by Lieutenant Commander Bacon in 1863.
Seventeen structures survived the war and ten of those remain today inside of the town's historic district. Visitors may tour many of these structures by obtaining a Bluffton Walking Tour Map from the Heyward Historic House Center. The Center is open from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. every Wednesday through Saturday and is located at 52 Boundry Street. The walking tour map is also available at the Hilton Head Island/Bluffton Chamber of Commerce offices on the island, in Bluffton and at the welcome center.
Be sure to see two of the oldest standing churches in South Carolina. The Campbell Chapel AME Church and the Church of the Cross are fine examples of pre-Civil War Southern worship centers. Both churches are located on the walking tour map.
After the war, the city began to rebuild and became a major distribution center due to its prime location on the river. Ships ran between Savannah and Hilton Head importing farm supplies and exporting local crops. This new economy brought settlers to the area that became permanent residents and helped the city continue to grow. The growth also spurned a new industry, as tourism truly began and Bluffton SC Real Estate became a vacation destination.
Through the efforts of many organizations and individuals, Bluffton has been able to preserve its unique past while driving towards the future. Bluffton today is a booming area offering tons of jobs and a Lowcountry way-of-life that appeals to many of the newcomers. With its recent annexation, Bluffton has become the fifth largest town in South Carolina and will continue to expand while keeping its small town feel.
The Bluffton Old Town Merchants Society invites you to visit the many delightful retail shops, art and antique galleries and restaurants around town. You can visit the oldest continuous oyster shucking facility in the state at the Bluffton SC Real Estate Oyster Company and Community Park along the May River. Take some time and visit the Riverfront Pocket Park and Garden while in the historic district. Bluffton continues to celebrate its heritage through many annual events such as the annual Christmas Parade, Village Festival (Second Saturday in May) and the Rotary Club Oyster Roasts held each fall and spring.
We hope that you will take the time to visit this proud, historic city while visiting the area. Enjoy the relaxed pace and discover the Bluffton "State of Mind ".