From staff reports
Historic Beaufort Foundation’s extensive 2021 exterior renovation of the John Mark Verdier House on Beaufort’s Bay Street earned Preservation South Carolina’s prestigious Stewardship Award July 13.
Built in 1804, the 13,000-square-foot Federal style building used era-appropriate shipbuilding techniques, with beams and hand-cut boards laid horizontally. Slated for demolition by Beaufort city officials in 1944, a group of Beaufort residents rallied to save it and it opened as a museum in 1975.
Since 1990, Preservation South Carolina has saved historic homes, helped businesses process historic tax credit opportunities, and enforced easements. They also focus on the preservation of rural-historic churches, the revitalization of smaller community’s downtown areas through historic preservation, and the saving of historically significant Black landmarks across the state.
Each year the organization celebrates exceptional preservation work across South Carolina.
“The Verdier House is one of the best-known properties in Beaufort’s National Historic Landmark District, and this award continues to validate our work to preserve and protect the Verdier House,” HBF Executive Director Cynthia Jenkins said in a news release.
The restoration addressed decades-long weather damage along with changing the home’s exterior paint scheme to reflect its original construction more accurately.
“This was painstakingly-detailed work, most of it by hand, and what we see now is as close as possible to what John Mark Verdier saw when he completed construction of the house more than two centuries ago,” Jenkins said.
Recent analysis and study of the Verdier House’s tabby foundation shows it was the first use of Roman cement in South Carolina, Jenkins said. Roman cement is a substance developed by James Parker in the 1780s and patented in 1796. It was a natural cement made by burning certain clay deposits and then grinding them to a fine powder. This product, made into a mortar with sand and mixed with water, set in minutes and stayed strong for decades or longer.
Greenville-based Preservation South, LLC was brought in to plan and manage the Verdier restoration project in concert with the Historic Beaufort Foundation. Greenbuild, a contractor, and Positive Outlook Painting, both also from Greenville, were hired to undertake the work.
The entire exterior envelope of the building was scraped by hand to remove loose and flaking paint as well as determine if the substrate was solid or in need of replacement.
The building was then primed and repainted in a period scheme supported by expert paint analysis.
The scored block pattern original to the foundation was recreated in paint on the tabby foundation. Only two small sections of the original scoring are visible today. These were used to recreate the layout using classical ratios. Once the design and size of the blocks were finalized, the pattern was meticulously laid out on the foundation and painted by hand.
Also, wood fence panels under the front steps and a gate in the form of a fence section were re-created from historic photos to bring back long-missing character-defining features of the house.
“This project was years in the making and serves as an example for other historic properties in Beaufort to be brought back to their historic appearance,” HBF Board of Trustees Chairman Wayne Vance said.
“The amount of research that went into this project is truly amazing, and the detailed craftsmanship of the renovations were executed to the highest historic preservation standards,” he said.
HBF is a 501(c)3 nonprofit education foundation created to preserve, protect, and present sites and artifacts of historic, architectural, and cultural interest throughout Beaufort County. For more information on the entity’s mission and history, visit historicbeaufort.org.