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Union soldiers kept watch atop historic Beaufort mansion

March 4, 2019

BEAUFORT, S.C. (AP) — Through a window atop a mansion once owned by one of the richest men in Beaufort, Union soldiers could keep lookout for anything approaching up the river.

In their free time — and there was lots of it — the men scrawled on the plaster walls in pencil. They signed names and dates, drew doodles and sketched caricatures.

The marks were discovered when the building at 1001 Bay St. was renovated 25 years ago. And now that history is for sale, as longtime owner Beekman Webb is ready to part with what George Parsons Elliott built in 1840.

“I’ve kind of babysat it for a long time now,” said Webb, a 71-year-old Beaufort native who sold his construction business several years ago. “But I’m ready to pass it on to someone else.”

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The 7,900 square-foot mansion was listed for $1.5 million and could be used for multiple commercial or residential purposes, according to the real estate listing. Retail business and office space has occupied the building since Webb bought it from the Historic Beaufort Foundation in 1994.

He was contractually obligated to restore the building and fixed damaged plaster, installed new wiring, plumbing and heating and air. Wallpaper and paint that covered the Civil War-era markings on the top floor was removed.

After Elliott built the house, it was later owned by W.A. Jenkins of Lands End Plantation on St. Helena, one of the wealthiest men in the area. Jenkins left with others when Union troops occupied the city.

After Jenkins tried to reclaim the home after the war and failed, he built a two-story house on land he owned on the river across the street known as the “Spite House,” Webb said

The original house was Union hospital No. 15, he said. A photo during the Civil War shows firefighters lined up outside the building after extinguishing a fire on the porch.

Webb ran his hands along the plaster walls Thursday and pointed to the various names and when they were signed — 1861, 1862, 1864. There’s a drawing of a soldier and faded phrases.

On the second floor porch added later in the 19th century, Webb points to where trees now partially obstruct the view of the water the Union watchmen would have enjoyed.

The writing was found by luck, beneath two layers of wallpaper and paint. Soldiers probably wrote similar things in other areas of the house since covered in plaster.

A store on the ground floor of the building has sold furniture and home decor for the past several years. The top floors are occupied by professional offices.

Webb envisions someone, maybe an attorney or financial professional, wanting the top floor as a sprawling apartment while leasing out the remaining space. The building’s story will be included on the walls.

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Information from: The Island Packet, http://www.islandpacket.com