Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings
In 1670, a group of English settlers founded a colony at this point, where the seat of government remained until the founding a decade later of Charleston, originally known as Charles Town, the first permanent white settlement in present South Carolina. The colonizing expedition had left England in August 1669 in three vessels, two of which (the Port Royall and Albemarle) were lost en route. The third, the Carolina, was repaired at Bermuda and in March 1670 reached Port Royal Harbor. The leaders felt that the location was too exposed to Spanish and Indian attack, and sailed up the coast to Albemarle Point. They landed and erected wooden fortifications and homes. The colony's business was conducted at this location under three Governors until, in December 1679, the proprietors designated Oyster Point (Charleston), at the junction of the Cooper and Ashley Rivers, as port town for the colony. Within 1 year, Albemarle Point was deserted. All surface traces of the Albemarle settlement have disappeared. The site is included in the privately owned Old Town Plantation. A monument, erected in 1909, stands near the plantation house, which is some distance from the point.
Medway is the oldest recorded house in South Carolina. It was built of brick in 1686 by Jan Van Arrsens, Seigneur de Weirnhoudt, leader of a small group of Hollanders who came to Carolina to settle. The original house, which measured 27 by 38-1/2 feet and had one-and-a-half stories, followed a plan described by William Penn in a 1684 broadside for prospective settlers of Pennsylvania. It had a partition near the middle and another to divide one end into two smaller rooms. Indicative of its Dutch origins, it had stepped gable ends and end chimneys.
Alterations and additions were made to the original structure. A second story was added, as well as unsymmetrical major wings on both the east and west sides and several smaller additions. Though the integrity of the original has been impaired, these changes have not spoiled the esthetic effect of the house. Consciously or otherwise, the taste of the original Dutch builder has dominated succeeding owners. None of the numerous outbuildings antedates the 19th century. The plantation, privately owned and beautifully maintained, is not open to visitors.
Probably the oldest extant wooden house in South Carolina, Middleburg was built about 1699 by Benjamin Simons, whose descendants have owned it ever since. One-room deep, it resembles the distinctive Charleston "single house." The first-floor interior walls, redecorated about 1800, are finished with wide boards. In the lovely formal garden are tunneled walks of age-old camellia japonicas.
NHL Designation: 04/15/70
On this island are the sites of the first French settlement within the present United States and two later Spanish posts. In 1562, under the command of Jean Ribaut, a group of French Huguenots built a small earth-and-log post and named it Charlesfort. During Ribaut's absence in France to seek reinforcements, and lacking support from the mother country, the colonists soon abandoned the fort. After incredible hardships, they returned home.
In 1566, the Spaniards established Fort San Felipe on the island, but the Indians destroyed it about 1576. Within 1 year, the Spanish returned and built a stronger post, Fort San Marcos, which became the center of a substantial settlement of some 60 houses and the capital of the province of Santa Elena. The Spanish abandoned it in 1587 during the general retrenchment that followed Sir Francis Drake's attack on St. Augustine.
Archeological excavations under the auspices of the U.S. Marine Corps in 1923 at the southern end of the island revealed the remains of a stockade and yielded a substantial number of artifacts. The excavators identified the site as Charlesfort, and it has been so marked by a granite monument; a marker also indicates that the Spanish forts were probably on Pilot or Means Creek. However, a more recent investigator has concluded that the excavated site was probably Fort San Marcos. Owned by the U.S. Government, the island is used by the U.S. Marine Corps as a recruit depot.
Last Updated: 22-Mar-2005