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Historic Sites and Buildings

Tabby Cottage

Location: Liberty County, on St. Catherines Island, which is located about 10 miles off the Georgia coast southeast of Midway between St. Catherines and Sapelo Sounds.

The original portion of this structure, today an eight-bedroom house and the main building on St. Catherines Island, may have been built by Button Gwinnett in 1765 when he purchased the island, on which he resided until his death in 1777 at Savannah. In 1929 the owner of the island extensively remodeled the gable-roofed building. He retained its basic shape and preserved many of its features, including mantels, stair rail, and wide-board, hand-pegged floors. To the rear at a right angle on one side he added a 1-1/2-story wing, also with gable roof, which more than doubled the floor space. The original, or front, section of the house, also 1-1/2 stories in height, was constructed of "tabby," a mixture of lime, ground from burned oyster shells, with sand, shells, and water. The wing is of frame with a stucco finish. Both parts of the residence are now roofed with Ludowici tile and feature dormers, interior chimneys, and shuttered exterior windows.

Other tabby structures on the island include seven guest cottages and about a dozen slave quarters, all probably dating from the early 19th century. Many of them are in ruins but some are in good condition. Elsewhere are four present employee residences, as well as several barns and maintenance buildings. Boundaries of old cotton and tobacco fields are discernible, as well as dozens of Indian burial mounds. Of special interest, between Persimmon Point and Wamassee Head, is the undisturbed site of the Mission of Santa Catalina (1566-ca. 1684), a Spanish mission. None of the buildings remain, but potsherds and other surface debris are plentiful.

When this volume went to press, the National Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings was making a further study of Tabby Cottage to determine the exact degree of its authenticity in relation to Gwinnett. Privately owned St. Catherines Island, not accessible to the public, has already been accorded National Historic Landmark status because of its associations with Spanish exploration and settlement.

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Last Updated: 04-Jul-2004